146 students are expelled from Staffordshire schools
Schools in Staffordshire have expelled more than 140 pupils in less than a year – with one school in Rugeley holding the highest number of exclusions across the region.
The county’s higher than average absence rates at the county’s units for troubled youngsters have sparked concerns.
In total 146 pupils were permanently excluded from Staffordshire schools during the 2017/18 academic year up to the end of March. There were a further 23 exclusions that were cancelled.
Persistent disruptive behaviour was the most common reason, with 61 cases, while other reasons related to drugs and alcohol, physical assaults on adults or other pupils and verbal abuse.
One case related to sexual misconduct, while another was for racist abuse.
The Hart School in Rugeley had the highest number of exclusions for this academic year – nine in total – with the second place being taken by another school in Cannock Chase; Kingsmead School in Hednesford permanently excluded six pupils.
Staffordshire University Academy in Cannock Chase took third place, with four pupils excluded.
Overall 34 pupils from the Cannock Chase area were permanently excluded between September 2017 and March 2018, 19 from Stafford, 11 from Lichfield, 14 from South Staffordshire, and the remaining 68 from elsewhere in the county.
Reasons for the expulsion included persistent disruptive behaviour, physical assault, drug use, verbal abuse and property damage.
Karl Hobson, county manager for Targeted Services, told this week’s Prosperous Staffordshire Select Committee: “Staffordshire had a recent history that each year our permanent exclusions would rise significantly.
“This year I’m pleased to report that the evidence we have so far is demonstrating that although we won’t see a reduction we won’t see a significant rise.
“Some of that work is down to districts’ inclusion officers who work with schools to look at exclusions. At one school that was looking to exclude a number of pupils at once, rather than exclude those children we looked for other schools.
“They were moved to another school and could continue their education and put right their wrongs. That led to their movement without the stigma a permanent exclusion brings.
“We have done a lot of work on that this year and this has proved very successful.”
But absence rates at the county’s six pupil referral units (PRUs) were a cause for concern.
PRUs cater for children who do not attend mainstream schools and are at risk of permanent exclusion or have been excluded.
Latest figures revealed that the overall absence rates at Staffordshire PRUs were 13.5 per cent above the national average of 4.7 per cent.
In contrast the overall absence rate at mainstream primary and secondary schools in the region is 0.2 per cent below the national average.
Councillor Philip White, cabinet member for learning and employability, said: “That is very concerning and it is something we are doing work on to examine why that may be the case.
"What PRUs are there for is a short stay facility, to take children who have difficulties and are out of mainstream school and get them back into mainstream education as soon as possible. That is not happening in some cases. I don’t think there is anything negative – if anything they are over-caring.”
No-one from the Hart School was available for comment.