At Chopsy Bristol, we have been sensing a disturbance in The Force, surrounding permanent school exclusions in Bristol. Although data for the academic year 2020/2021 has not been released yet, we asked People Scrutiny for some up-to-date figures in the interim.
Permanent exclusions in Bristol has been historically high, with Bristol City Council being forced to bring in ways to tackle this over recent years.
Of course, one answer with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (Send) data merely triggers more questions. But ahead of published figures from the Department for Education (DfE), we have some numbers on how many pupils have been permanently excluded and why.
The figures released as part of Public Forum at People Scrutiny Commission on Monday 07 March 2022, came with the disclaimer that 19 of the total numbers were from other Local Authority (LA) schools. But as this number does not include how many have an Education Health Care Plan (EHCP) for which the LA has responsibility, it’s hard to know where responsibility for the exclusion really lies. Additionally, the figures do not say how many pupils are on SEN Support or are in the Education Health Care Needs Assessment (EHCNA) process.
‘Persistent Disruptive Behaviour’ can often be traced back to unmet Send needs in children and young people who are penalised in the education system for characteristics of their disability leading to what is often seen as ‘behaviour’ issues.
The numbers above show that this is again high, potentially reflective of the rigid ‘Ready to Learn’ behaviour policies adopted by many mainstream secondary schools in Bristol, some of which have been found by independent researchers to fail in making Reasonable Adjustments for disability.
The number of permanent exclusions fell from 69 in 2015/16 at all schools to just 4 by the academic year of 2020 – although schools were closed to many pupils from March 2020 into the summer due to Covid-19 and closed again in the January of 2021.
Data already held by the DfE on permanent exclusion in Bristol, shows that this has long been an issue, alongside ‘other’ which is not transparent when it comes to public scrutiny.
Further Permanent exclusions statistics submitted to the DfE shows the breakdown of which type of which type of schools are permanently excluding pupils, which has seen even specialist provision permanently removing a pupil from roll.
And historically, compared to the overall pupil population in Bristol, children and young people with Send but without an EHCP, are still vulnerable to school exclusion.
In response to the figures submitted to People Scrutiny Commission, Director of Alison Hurley, said: “The permanent exclusions in Bristol was extremely high for a number of years. Lots of work is taking place in order to reduce those. They are still low compared to national numbers in terms of permanent exclusions in Bristol and our data also includes those who are Bristol children educated outside of the Local Authority. Those figures are much higher than Bristol themselves so the Bristol rate still remain low. We are always concerned when any child or young person is permanently excluded and work hard with the school to try and prevent that happening but unfortunately there are still cases within our system where there has been a permanent exclusion.”