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Excluded Pupils

Volume 404: debated on Wednesday 30 April 2003

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2.

What recent discussions he has had with the First Secretary of the National Assembly about the numbers of permanently excluded pupils from secondary schools in Wales. [109786]

My right hon. Friend regularly meets the First Minister and I regularly meet the Assembly Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning to discuss a range of educational issues.

I thank the Minister for that reply. Does he share my concern that the largest percentage of excluded pupils in any area in Wales is in the Caerphilly county borough where the local authority is nationalist controlled? Does he also share my concern that many of those excluded pupils are on the streets of the borough engaging in antisocial behaviour because the local authority does not provide adequate alternative educational provision?

I am aware of my hon. Friend's point, and I deeply regret the fact that the borough that he and I share, which is run by the Welsh nationalist party, has one of the highest figures for exclusion in Wales. The average figure for Wales is 1.7 per cent.

However, I want to make it clear that my colleagues in the Assembly are putting together a package of £500,000 for the next three years in which they are looking to pilot projects to establish the causes of pupil disengagement. My hon. Friend is right to say that youngsters who are excluded from school cause antisocial nuisance problems right throughout our borough. I made that point when I spoke at the NUT Cymru dinner at Harrogate recently. I believe that we have to work hard, as the Government are doing, in partnership with the Labour-led Assembly in Cardiff to ensure that we put in the resources to tackle the problem. I also believe that it starts in the home. Parents have a responsibility to see that their children go to school.