Primary school exclusions up

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Hundreds of children are being permanently excluded from primary schools as headteachers try to hit performance targets, writes Ian Burrell.

Researchers at the University of Portsmouth found that permanent exclusions from primary schools more than trebled to 1,215 in a year, while up to 10,000 other children were temporarily excluded.

Most of the children (54 per cent) were excluded for violent behaviour, while 17 per cent were ordered out for verbal abuse and 16 per cent for disobedience.

Others were shown the door for being disruptive to other children or for simply being "uncontrollable" within the school. Nine out of ten of those excluded were boys.

The research team found that in 1992-93, 1,215 primary schoolchildren were permanently excluded from school, compared with 378 the year before.

A detailed analysis of three local authorities - two London boroughs and a county council - found that temporary exclusions, which schools are not legally obliged to report, were occurring at eight times the rate of permanent exclusions.

If the pattern was repeated across the country, 10,000 primary schoolchildren could be affected.

Dr Carol Hayden, who headed what is the biggest-ever study of primary- school exclusions, said that headteachers were very aware of the economic consequences of keeping disruptive pupils in school.

"If schools keep disruptive pupils, other parents can become disgruntled and take their children and the funds that go with them to other schools," she said.

"Difficult children can also make it harder for other students to learn, deterring more parents from sending their children to the school. The planned introduction of league tables for primary schools will exacerbate this problem."

The researchers found that 80 per cent of the excluded children were on the casebooks of specialist agencies, mostly social services.

One-quarter of the children had been "statemented" by education psychologists for having emotional and behavioural difficulties, the university study found.

Further examination of the family backgrounds of a sample of 38 excluded children found that 90 per cent came from families where the parents were divorced or separated, and 60 per cent were from families where there was evidence of neglect, violence or abuse.