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Pupil Exclusions

Volume 502: debated on Monday 7 December 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (1) what steps his Department is taking to reduce the number of children who have been excluded or at risk of exclusion from school who are subsequently classified as not in education, employment or training; and if he will make a statement; (301872)

(2) what assessment his Department has made of the causes of exclusion of children from school; what recent steps his Department has taken as a consequence of that assessment; and if he will make a statement.

We accept that a significant minority of excluded pupils can go on to be not in education, employment or training (NEET). We also know that exclusions are now at their lowest ever level since 1997/98, with permanent exclusions dropping 6.4 per cent. between 2006/07 and 2007/08.

We support heads when taking the tough decision to exclude. It is right that head teachers should use their powers to exclude disruptive pupils when this is in the interests of other pupils. However, our focus must be on preventing bad behaviour from degenerating to the point where exclusion—and particularly permanent exclusion—is necessary.

Data on school exclusion are collected through the school census and published annually. The latest data were published as SFR 18/2009 “Permanent and Fixed Period Exclusions from Schools in England 2007/08” which can be accessed at:

Table 9 gives a breakdown of the reasons for exclusion. Persistent disruptive behaviour was the most common reason for exclusion, representing 30.9 per cent. of permanent exclusion and 23.2 per cent. of fixed period exclusion.

Good behaviour is fundamental to school standards, and Ofsted recently reported (24 November) that 80 per cent. of secondary schools are good or outstanding on behaviour, up from 72 per cent. in 2007/08. In September my Department launched a Behaviour Challenge with an ambition that, by 2012, all schools will have a good or outstanding Ofsted rating on behaviour or be on track to achieve one. Support and challenge will be provided to schools through local authorities, the National Strategies, and School Improvement Partners. We have also asked National Strategies colleagues to support local authorities with high exclusion rates, and high rates of multiple fixed period exclusion, to help their schools increase the use of early intervention to improve behaviour and minimise the need for exclusion.

We are making all 16 and 17-year-olds an offer of suitable place in learning through the September Guarantee. My Department has asked local authorities to focus in particular on those who are disengaged from education or missing school. The 14-19 curriculum reforms are creating a range of different learning opportunities suit all young people, including those who need help to re-engage in learning. Connexions services provide tailored support and advice, both on accessing education, employment or training, and on personal issues.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced on 18 November plans to extend the guarantee to any 16 and 17-year-old who is not in education, employment or training (NEET) in January. This will give those who were not ready to engage in learning in September, or who have since left, a further opportunity to get the skills they need to succeed.

The Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act, 2009 introduced tough statutory disciplinary powers to strengthen teachers’ rights to punish bad behaviour in and out of the classroom. These include a strong statutory power to punish pupils in school and en route to and from school; a statutory power to reasonably confiscate mobiles or music players used disruptively; and reaffirming powers to use physical force to break up fights and restrain pupils. The Act also introduced a duty for schools to work together in partnership to improve behaviour and reduce absence.

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what the average length of a fixed-period exclusion for pupils from (a) primary, (b) secondary and (c) all schools was in the last 12 months. (304893)

The latest available data on the average length of fixed period exclusions for the 2007/08 academic year are published at Table 5.

Data for 2008/09 are expected to be published in July 2010.