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(UK) Sheffield: experts discuss why SPED students excluded from school

Nov 13, 2018, Sheffield Star: What can be done to reduce school exclusions in Sheffield? You have your say https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/what-can-be-done-to-reduce-school-exclusions-in-sheffield-you-have-your-say-1-9441725 Secondary school exclusion rates in Sheffield are among the highest in the country, with the 5,700 dished out in 2015/16 equating to nearly one for every five pupils. Sheffield Council recently said exclusion rates in the city were beginning to fall, following a more coordinated approach to offer earlier intervention, but they remain above the national average. We asked people what could be done to reduce the rate of school exclusions in Sheffield, and here’s what they said: LOUISE HAIGH, MP for Sheffield Heeley: As shadow policing minister, it might seem strange for me to be talking about school exclusions. But sadly, the recent surge in violence has caused us all to reflect on the complex causes behind it. The figures are clear – 89 per cent of young people in custody were first excluded from school, and exclusion – either fixed term or permanent. Exclusion puts young people at a much higher risk both of committing crime, and of becoming a victim of crime. … These exclusion rates stem not from a quarter of children in a school being badly behaved, but from the Government’s refusal to properly fund schools and local authorities who provide alternative provision. Their dogmatic academisation project takes away the reasonable accountability under which schools should operate – and their lack of oversight is putting our young people increasingly at risk…. Supporting students with special needs and differentiating the curriculum for them tend to be side-lined. The lower ability children are the ones who too often end up being excluded, after experiencing an education system where they often will feel labelled as failures. It is a very destructive system for many students and their teachers…. BEN DAVIES, Chief executive of Whirlow Hall Farm Trust, which supports children who have been excluded or are at risk of being excluded from school It’s a complex problem with links to many broader issues - inequality, mental health, poor parenting, teacher attrition, education policy, gang culture and violence. Whatever the root causes, exclusions occur because children become disengaged with education - they don’t enjoy it, they don’t see the point, they’d rather be somewhere else. Boredom and frustration follow and if the child hasn’t been shown how to behave, or simply can’t control themselves, this can lead to disruptive behaviour that makes exclusion likely. Keeping kids engaged with education is critical, and whilst we all want schools to be able to provide for every child that isn’t reality at the moment. There needs to be an effective alternative for children that really struggle; some just need to be somewhere else for a while, with a teacher that has the time they need. Alternative Providers are a key component of a comprehensive education system that can meet the needs of every child. That is what we provide at Whirlow Hall Farm Trust - an alternative location, an alternative approach, an alternative way learning. With a growing number of children affected, Alternative Providers must be able to meet tomorrow’s demand. It’s also clear that, from a strategic perspective, long-term solutions are needed; prevention, not cure, is the answer. Accurate and timely assessment of additional needs is required; 80 per cent of excluded children have mental health issues or learning difficulties. … All this comes at a price. We must accept the need to invest up front in order to reduce the long-term cost that exclusions have on society. DR NICOLA CROSSLEY, director of inclusion at Astrea Academy Trust Pupils with SEND (special educational needs and disability) are not simply naturally naughty and yet they account for almost half of all exclusions, despite the fact that the SEND Code of Practice requires schools to ensure provision meets need. … In particular, we need to focus on three things. First, increasing understanding of behaviours that challenge. Second, ensuring that in the event of an exclusion, the length of exclusion is proportionate to the offence. And third, taking a proactive approach in reducing the risk of ‘repeat offenders’. What we need to ensure then is that appropriate training is given - not just in behaviour management – but also in the primary areas of SEN so that colleagues are better able to determine whether the behaviours being presented are as a result of poor behaviour or due to an unmet need. …