Rising pupil exclusions in Wakefield debated after Timpson Review published

Temporary and permanent exclusions of pupils in Wakefield have nearly trebled since 2010. Similar rises have been seen across the UK.
Temporary and permanent exclusions of pupils in Wakefield have nearly trebled since 2010. Similar rises have been seen across the UK.

Councillors and education professionals have welcomed a study's findings on pupil exclusions, amid spiralling numbers of children being turfed out of school.

The Timpson Review, which was published last month, called for changes to the way troublesome pupils are dealt with by schools all over the country.

The Timpson Review made several recommendations, some of which are set to be adopted by the government.

The Timpson Review made several recommendations, some of which are set to be adopted by the government.

The Department of Education will adopt at least some of the report's ideas, including one suggestion that schools should be held accountable for the future academic results of any pupil they expel.

Andy Lancashire, Wakefield Council's service director for education and inclusion, said that this would remove a "perverse incentive" for headteachers to exclude students.

In January, it was revealed that the number of pupils being expelled across the district had nearly trebled over the last decade. It followed suggestions from a senior council officer last year that some Wakefield headteachers were "encouraging home schooling" in some cases as a way of dealing with unruly pupils.

But speaking at a children and young people scrutiny meeting on Wednesday, Mr Lancashire said that schools were now willing to work together to tackle the problem.

Mr Timpson was a Conservative MP for nine years, before losing his seat at the 2017 General Election.

Mr Timpson was a Conservative MP for nine years, before losing his seat at the 2017 General Election.

He said: "I think there's a recognition that there's national spotlight on this, in the nicest possible way. I think that's helpful.

"They (school leaders) know Ofsted will come in and look at this, they know the Department of Education will come in and look.

"There's been a lot of noise and a lot of media around things like isolation booths, and quite rightly school leaders are saying, "We want to be sure we're doing the right thing".

When children are expelled from school they routinely continue their education at a pupil referral unit (PRU), which are run by local authorities, alongside other youngsters who've been permanently excluded.

Few of these children ever return to a school.

Mr Lancashire added: "At the moment pupils are stepping into a PRU, but there's not a lot stepping back into mainstream schooling.

"Just because they've been permanently excluded, doesn't mean they can't be reintegrated back into the mainstream education system.

"It needs to be more flexible."

Scrutiny chair and former headteacher Councillor David Jones praised the study's findings and said he was saddened by the plight of former students he'd seen going through the criminal justice system.

He told colleagues: "As a person who had to carry out both fixed term (temporary) exclusions and permanent exclusions, going through Timpson's report there were so many things that resonated with me.

"An exclusion is something that you give with a very heavy heart, and you go through a lot of angst I can tell you, because you know what the implications will be for that young person.

"It's a very difficult decision."

But Sally Kincaid, from the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said that state-sponsored competition between schools could undermine efforts of head teachers to tackle the problem.

She said: "I like the idea of school collaboration, but on the other hand the schools are all competing each other in the school league tables.

"So on the one hand we've got, "I don't want to be on the front page of The Guardian (because we've excluded lots of pupils), but we've also got, "We want to be top of the league table."

Local Democracy Reporting Service