Councillors ‘challenge’ Islington to reduce rate of school exclusions

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Islington councillors have set a challenge for the whole borough after a report described the high rate of school exclusions locally as “unacceptable”.

Islington’s rates of school exclusions are higher than other London boroughs, with 34 permanent and 1,251 fixed period exclusions in 2016/17.

The borough’s overall permanent exclusion rate was 0.14 per cent, higher than the inner London average of 0.09 per cent.

A report by the borough’s children’s services scrutiny committee found that some young people feel “powerless and frustrated” by the exclusion process, and suggested a targeted approach, working with schools whose rates are high.

The committee said: “It is accepted that exclusion can be necessary in some instances, [but] the committee concludes that there is no need for Islington’s exclusion rate to be as high as it is.

“The committee respects the autonomy of local schools and understands that the council cannot direct schools to revise their behaviour management practices.

“However, it is not acceptable that young people are being excluded, with serious implications for the young person and their family, if there are alternative courses of action available.

“[We] want to set a challenge to the whole borough to accept that the current situation is not good enough and to find solutions that will support schools in preventing exclusion and offer greater support to excluded pupils and their parents.”

The committee added that the borough’s high exclusion rates are attributable to a small number of schools, with the disproportionate effects on young people from Black Caribbean and White British backgrounds called out as “unacceptable”.

Islington has relatively high levels of deprivation, with 35 per cent of children under the age of 16 living in low income households.

The report found that some local schools adopt a ‘zero tolerance’ behaviour management approach which contributes to high exclusion rates, and that evidence suggests teachers’ unions can put on pressure to exclude children involved in violent incidents.

The committee went on to call for a ‘Charter for Inclusion’ to be developed with schools in Islington, as well as pupil referral unit New River College, as well as recommendations for school governors to receive training on how to shape their school’s culture and ethos.

A meeting of Islington Council’s executive will also hear recommendations on 20 June for officers in Pupil Services and School Improvement to encourage schools to ensure pupils with behavioural difficulties are assessed for special educational needs and can access support if required.