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Pupil Exclusions

Volume 459: debated on Thursday 26 April 2007

9. What steps he is taking to assist those pupils excluded from school to re-integrate into full-time education; and if he will make a statement. (133961)

From September, schools and local authorities will be required to arrange suitable full-time education for all excluded pupils from the sixth day of exclusion, which is a considerable improvement on the current expectation that local authorities do that from the 16th day of exclusion for permanently excluded pupils only. We shall also require schools to hold reintegration interviews with the parents of pupils excluded for fixed periods to discuss how their child’s behaviour can be improved.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the EAR to Listen independent advocacy pilot projects being carried out by Save the Children up and down the country, including in my constituency? The projects have achieved a great deal of success in maintaining vulnerable young people in a school setting rather than their being excluded. Can he look at that experience to see whether it can be adopted as best practice?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing the Save the Children advocacy project to my attention. The scheme sounds excellent and I want to find out more about it to see whether there is good practice that we can extend elsewhere, so I have asked an official to attend the next Save the Children advocacy steering group on 1 May and to report back to me about the project.

As I think we all agree, first, that it is right to exclude disruptive children from school and, secondly, that we must reintegrate them as quickly as possible, may I suggest to the Minister that the state does not always know best? There seem to be many good voluntary organisations and I wonder whether they have sufficient support from his Department.

I agree with the first part of the right hon. Gentleman’s question. As he advises the leader of his party—to whom I listened on the “Today” programme on Monday—perhaps he could advise him that heads can exclude. We are backing heads when pupils’ behaviour warrants exclusion. We have made it clear that heads can permanently exclude pupils who are disruptive or violent, even for a first or one-off offence, and we have greatly limited the powers of appeals panels, to which reference was made, to return excluded pupils to the classroom. The vast majority of the 9,440 pupils permanently excluded each year are not returned to the classroom; in 2004-05 that happened in only 110 cases— 1.2 per cent. of exclusions. On the point about the voluntary sector, we are interested in that sector and want to work well with it across Government. That is something I regularly discuss with the Minister in the Cabinet Office with responsibility for the third sector across Government.