Schooling at home suggested by heads in unruly pupil cases

editorial image

Headteachers are “encouraging home schooling” among troublesome pupils they want to expel, a senior council worker has said.

Gary Stuart said there had been a “dramatic” rise in the number of students being permanently excluded from school in the district.

A total of 80 pupils were expelled during the 2016/17 academic year, compared to 62 the year before and 53 in 2014/15. One of the pupils permanently excluded in 16/17 was at primary school. The rest were all at secondary schools.

The figures were discussed at a meeting of the Wakefield Council’s Children, Young People and Skills Overview Committee.

Mr Stuart, from Children’s Services, said: “We’ve had an increase in permanent exclusions. That’s gone up dramatically. There will be many reasons for that. Some of them I can live with: higher population, more stress. There’s all sorts of outside factors.

“Headteachers are now under lots of pressure. Sometimes it’s easier for them to permanently exclude a child (than take alternative action). I’ve come across occasions where headteachers are 
encouraging home schooling. I don’t say that lightly and it’s certainly not the case everywhere.”

A former school leader himself, Mr Stuart said he advocated “tough love” towards pupils, adding: “I’m not saying if someone brings a knife or a gun into school we should embrace them and let them off.”

But he said he wanted to see the number of permanent exclusions come down and that the council tries to mediate when serious incidents occur in schools. He added: “Fixed term (temporary) exclusions can often get children back on the right path. A short, sharp shock often works.”

Figures showed that “persistent disruptive behaviour” was the most common reason for permanent exclusions, followed by assaults on fellow pupils and threatening a member of staff.

Outwood Grange, handed down more expulsions than any other between 2014 and 2017, with 24.

Airedale Academy permanently exluded 18 pupils in that time, while Horbury Academy and Ossett Academy expelled 17 students each.

The number of youngsters being home schooled in Wakefield now stands at 343, having risen sharply in recent years.

Mr Stuart said there were concerns about this, as councils have little information about a child’s progress. He said: “There’s been a big increase in education at home. That frightens me a lot because there’s not a lot we can do. The powers of the local authority are not many. We’ve no right to go onto their premises, we can’t intervene in any way.”

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) were contacted but did not comment.

Schools handing out exclusions between 2014 and 2017

Outwood Grange Academy - 24

Airedale Academy - 18

Horbury Academy - 17

Ossett Academy - 17

Hemsworth Arts and Community College - 13

Kettlethorpe High School - 13

St Wilfred’s RC Catholic High School - 13

Minsthorpe High School - 12

Carleton High School - 11

Cathedral School - 9

Freeston Business and Enterprise College - 9

Kings High School - 9