The Committee considered a report of the Head of Education of Vulnerable Children Service and Senior Adviser which informed of the processes in place in Trafford to manage school exclusions.
The author of the report and the Interim Corporate Director for Children’s Service were in attendance to present the information and address the enquiries of the Committee.
The officer reported that the Vulnerable Children service maintained good working relationships with schools in Trafford through the provision of advice, guidance and recommendations. Fixed period exclusions in Trafford were lower than the national average and fixed period exclusions of children in need and those of children under child protection were also low. Although more data was required for a breakdown of vulnerable groups, existing data indicated that there was a higher proportion of exclusion of pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) than expected. With regard to permanent exclusions, since 2013/14, the rate across Trafford had risen from 0.07% to 0.16% in 2017/18. In 2018/19 figures had shown a downturn to 0.12%. The officer added that data relating to exclusions, admissions and SEND was stored in three different systems; consequently, it took a long time to compare information. A more up to date and efficient system was required to gather and compare data efficiently for better analysis.
Members sought clarification with regard to the percentage of school exclusions in Trafford, in 2017/18, in comparison to the percentage in England and in the North West. Officers reported the following statistics of children excluded from school: Trafford 0.6%, England 0.1% and the North West 0.11%. Officers added that, since 2015, there had been a constant increase in school exclusions. Members queried the reason for this trend. It was explained that several factors such as the SEND reform, decrease in school funding and its impact on school staff. Changes in society also impacted on behaviours and school’s expectation. Members queried why it was not possible to identify the schools with high levels of exclusions and SEND. Officers explained that figures varied from year to year. However, schools with high cases of exclusions were those which took the highest number of pupils in year. Members raised concerns with regard to the fact that the high rate of exclusions in Trafford could be caused by the cuts to school budgets. Officers explained that certain data, such as ethnicity of children excluded from school, was currently being recorded manually by individual schools; consequently, gathering these figures was very difficult and a new system was necessary. It was explained that plans were in place to acquire a system able to capture the necessary data. Members queried the cost of the new system. Officers explained that, in Trafford, all schools but one had their own admission process. A solution could be for all schools to have a unitary authority managing admissions. With regard to academies sharing data on exclusions, it was explained that it was a statutory duty to report these figures, although, at times, this data was not communicated by schools quickly enough. Members queried what interaction existed with pupils who were out of the area and their families. Officers explained that in the instance of fixed period exclusions, the school would address the issue with the pupils and their families. Officers also explained that the exclusion of children with EHCP would be very rare. Officers added that local authorities and schools had invested substantial resources to make sure that school exclusion was the last resort to manage pupils’ behaviour.
Members also raised concern with regard to the fact that off-rolling of Year 10 pupils was a common pattern to avoid bad exam results. However, this was difficult to evidence.
The Executive Member for Children’s Social Care explained that there was a national movement that aimed to put pressure on Ofsted in order to increase support in schools through pastoral care and early intervention strategies. The Executive Member mentioned the work of Children and Young People’s Scrutiny’s Task and Finish Group on SEND and School Exclusion and stated that it was important to have mechanisms in place, such as scrutiny committees, to ensure that Trafford was an inclusive borough.
Officers explained that the Bridge Programme offered tailor-made support to ensure that, after a period of time spent at the Pupil Referral Unit, children could go back to the mainstream school. If a child was permanently excluded twice, schools could refuse to admit him/her.
1. That the report be noted;
2. That the actions outlined in the report be endorsed:
a. A new data system be purchased which can bring together all of the non-academic information around pupils, so that vulnerable cohorts can be more easily identified and tracked.
b. When the Behaviour and Standards Officer post is filled, the Officer carries out:
i. An analysis of permanent exclusion from secondary school to determine how many permanently excluded pupils have transferred into the school after the start of Year 7;
ii. Initiates shared conversations across groups of schools to consider the appropriate length of fixed term exclusions depending on age and what the behaviour policy reach relates to.