Agenda item

School Exclusions

Report to follow.

Minutes:

The Director of Education, Learning and Skills introduced the briefing paper which had been circulated to members, noting this was still in draft form. It was explained that the Inclusion Team dealt with exclusions, children missing education, home education, teenage pregnancy, safeguarding and alternative provisions, including those that may be unregistered.

 

In response to questions from members of the commission, the following points were made:

  • The exclusions reported related to Lambeth residents, though some were excluded from out of borough schools. However, it was then Lambeth’s responsibility to find a place of education
  • It was noted that it was very difficult to get a clear current picture as exclusions were reported in retrospect and reporting was not always accurate
  • On fixed term exclusions, these could sometimes be very short and the data may also refer to multiple fixed term exclusions of the same child
  • The information in the report was what was reported to the Department for Education (DfE) and used the DfE’s descriptors; it was for schools to summarise the reasons for the exclusion to meet these criteria, and this could explain why so many were grouped under “Other”. Ideally Lambeth would have as much information as possible in order to try to determine whether, for example, “disruptive behaviour” referred to the same or multiple issues, whether an EHC plan was needed, or whether Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) needed to be involved. Schools were meeting DfE requirements, however
  • When permanent exclusions took place, documentation was received including a letter from the head and supporting information with more detailed reasons
  • Managed moves were agreements between heads, who then notified the Council. They operated on a trial basis; if the trial failed then the pupil would return to their home school where they could then face exclusion
  • Regarding the geographical picture of exclusions, the majority related to the south east of the borough as this was where the most schools were situated
  • The Inclusion Manager worked with schools and across boroughs to try to ensure advance warning of any potential exclusions and look at alternatives. This could include managed transfers – this was where all parties agreed on a transfer and resulted in the permanent exclusion being withdrawn – 17 of which had occurred this year. This could only happen when a school could demonstrate they had put all possible measures in place, and almost all schools considered this as an option. Parents had no right of appeal against managed transfers as they only took place with parental agreement
  • Regarding ethnicity of excluded pupils, the figures for Black Caribbean children stood out, as did Mixed White and Black Caribbean; these two groups combined comprised the vast majority of permanent exclusions. It was important to work with schools to be notified when there were issues in order that appropriate intervention could be put in place. This could include the police allocating charity-based positive mentors or use of the aspirational families support scheme, where the appropriate criteria were met; in any event, building positive relationships was key
  • Councillor Dyer was happy to see managed transfers being used but stressed that the scale of exclusions of young black men was concerning and needed attention. She queried the increased level of primary exclusions and asked for more information on ethnicity, stressing that additional data was needed more generally to get a better picture of the situation and thus help support children better. She also believed Black Caribbean pupils were sometimes excluded for reasons they and their parents didn’t understand and this was a concern
  • Some schools, such as Dunraven, had particularly useful strategies whereby processes were built in to support families from the school. It was asked what best practice models had been identified that could be used more widely
  • It was noted that the current waiting time for CAMHS was around 45 weeks and this was unacceptable. Lack of CAMHS provision could be a factor in exclusions, where it was evidenced that mental health was an issue. In such circumstances, other interventions would be put in place in the interim, such as parenting classes, placing the pupil in a smaller class or setting a series of goals for behavioural improvement
  • The Cabinet Member for Families and Young People agreed that the identification of best practice was important, concurring that Dunraven was a particularly good example, and explained that a new CAMHS strategy was now in place which put more emphasis on preventative work in the community and in schools. Councillor Dyer commented that working directly with communities themselves was a particular challenge and she believed the Council hadn’t yet found an appropriate vehicle to work with families and communities strategically to help support them in tackling issues, though this had begun to be addressed via the Black Health and Wellbeing (BHWB) Scrutiny Commission, from which learning could perhaps be drawn. She stated that educational issues often arose from family settings such as poverty and mental health issues in parents, and suggested a lead officer could be identified to work with the Black Wellbeing Partnership; this was the proposed vehicle to take forward implementation of the BHWB Commission’s recommendations
  • Schools were able to purchase a place at the Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) at an early stage, retain the pupil on roll and work through the issues
  • It was rare for families to win appeals against permanent exclusion
  • Any educational provision identified as operating in the borough was contacted and assessed as to whether they needed to be registered. In the event of concerns, an inspection could be carried out; alternatively, some may not meet the criteria for having to be registered
  • The aim was to avoid exclusions in vulnerable groups by any means possible. A multi-agency vulnerable pupils panel existed to help anticipate issues, including police and health representatives
  • There had been an increase recently in very young children with behavioural issues; it was possible this could be related to changes in welfare and family support and this was being looked into
  • Links with children’s social care and CAMHS, including appropriate referrals, were important
  • All children were required to be on the school roll somewhere unless they were home educated, in which case assessments were carried out annually. If the Council was made aware of a child who was not connected to a school, it had a statutory responsibility to find educational provision