Updated with Medway permanent exclusions 2014-15.
How much worse can it get for the children of Medway? My previous article recorded the dire statistic that Medway primary schools had the worst KS2 results in the country for 2015, and overall for the period from 2009 to 2015, whilst earlier in the year, Medway Primary schools published figures show that the Authority came bottom in the country in 2013-14 for OFSTED outcomes.
Now come the latest national figures on fixed and permanent exclusions, which cover the school year for 2013-14 and show Medway has the second highest percentage of primary school fixed term exclusions in the country. This is the equivalent of one fixed term exclusion for every 3.37% of the school population, over three times the national average and an astonishing rise of 34% over 2012/13.
A previous article I wrote about permanent exclusions showed that permanent exclusions in Medway rose astonishingly over the same period by over three times from 22 to an astonishing 70, the third highest proportion of the school population in the country. In 2009/10 there were just three permanent exclusions in Medway.
Couple this with the two most recent Inspections of local authority arrangements, the first for the protection of children in 2013, which were found to be Inadequate, the second for looked after children services in 2013, also Inadequate.
Surely, now there is now enough evidence for a full investigation into the quality of education and children’s services in Medway taking all these factors into account, followed by a replacement of Education and Children’s Services part of the Children and Adult Services Department which is clearly not fit for purpose, before the children of Medway suffer even more....
Permanent Exclusion numbers in Kent and Medway are heading rapidly in different directions, with an alarming rise in exclusions in Medway. In 2019-10 there were just three permanent exclusions in Medway, climbing to 22 in 2011-12. Just years later, it has soared to 71 pupils in 2013-14, of which fourteen were exclusions by Bishop of Rochester Academy, under its previous sponsors, Rochester Diocesan Board of Education. Just 9 of the Medway exclusions were of primary school children, that is 10%, against 26, or 30%, in Kent.
Meanwhile in Kent, the welcome news is that the reverse is happening as the number has fallen equally dramatically to a total of 87 in 2013-14, just a few more than Medway, although with 6 times as many children at local schools. An earlier article recorded that 203 children were permanently excluded from Kent schools in 2011 – 12, with 250 in the previous year.
However, the number of SEN statemented primary aged children permanently excluded in Kent after a dip to 5 in 2012-13 has returned to its 2011-12 figure of 19 which is now 69% of the total of 26 primary exclusions, all but two of the others also being on the SEN register. By contrast in Medway no primary pupils with statements were excluded, out of just 9 primary exclusions in total.
These are surely three very startling and contradictory outcomes in Kent and Medway for permanent exclusions overall and for primary and also primary statemented children.
I am appalled by proposed changes to School Exclusion Panel procedures, which hand over enormous powers to schools, and especially academies, to get rid of undesirable children.
Consultation is taking place on these proposals until February 17th.
A Panel of School Governors will remain to uphold or overturn a headteacher's decision to permanently exclude (expel). Some governing bodies approach this task independently, but many will act to uphold the headteacher's decision as an action of support. Up until now there has been a check - an Independent Appeal Panel (IAP) which includes a serving or recently retired headteacher to ensure the other two members understand the issues. It is proposed to scrap IAPs and replace them by a Review Panel. For an academy, this can run by the Academy Trust which is hardly independent.
The powers of the Review Panels are limited to three courses of action: they can....
Kent County Council is today debating a paper submitted which provides alarming figures for permanent exclusions in Kent, and especially for children with statements of Special Education in Kent. Of course there is nothing new in this paper for browsers of this website or readers of Kent on Sunday, for last June I published an article highlighting these issues, although I did not at the time have end of year figures. As a result of my article, Radio Kent headlined the issue and Paul Carter, Leader of Kent County Council, was interviewed on the BBC Politics show where he described the figures as unacceptable.
Seven months later, ........
The following item served the basis for an article in KOS on 11 June 2011, and also triggered the front page news story.
A Freedom of Information request I submitted has revealed a number of alarming features in the pattern of permanent exclusions (expulsions) in Kent schools.
The first two new style academies created in Kent top the list of permanent exclusions between September and Easter, headed by Westlands School in Sittingbourne with 11. Next is Canterbury High School with nine permanent exclusions.
Both these schools previously had outstanding Ofsted reports, so it is difficult to believe they have difficult disciplinary problems.
Other schools with high numbers of permanent exclusions over this period are: Chaucer Technology School, also in Canterbury (nine); Hartsdown Technology College (converting to an academy – eight) and the Marlowe Academy both in Thanet (seven); and Astor College for the Arts in Dover (seven).
The total over this period is rising alarmingly already being almost the same as for the whole of 2009-10.
In general, an excluded child does not just go away, they are moved to another school to be given a fresh chance but, as this will usually be one of the few with vacancies in the area, it just heaps the problems on a possibly struggling school.
Of particular concern is the number of children with statements of special education needs (SEN) who continue to be permanently excluded, in spite of government policy that “schools should avoid permanently excluding pupils with statements, other than in the most exceptional circumstances”.
While I don’t yet have figures for this year, in 2009-10 out of a total of 168 secondary exclusions 22 were of statemented children, a further 68 being of other children with SEN, together over half of the total.
However, the most astonishing and alarming statistic in this whole survey is that nearly all of the 34 Kent primary school exclusions in the last school year were of children with Special Education Needs, with 13 statemented children and another 18 with SEN.
So much for Kent. Meanwhile up in Medway there is a remarkably different picture. The council reports that there were just three permanent exclusions from Medway Secondary Schools in 2009-10 (none statemented), and none from primary schools. For 2010-11 the reported figure is currently zero, although Medway Council has subsequently claimed it is unaware of at least three permanent exclusions from Bishop of Rochester Academy, even though it would have responsibility for those children, so this figure needs to be treated with some caution.
This all begs many questions. Firstly, why are the pictures in Kent and Medway so very different?
Medway may only have around one sixth of the children being educated in Kent, but this does not come close to explaining why some Kent schools resort to formal exclusion proceedings so often, whereas Medway can avoid a dramatic, stressful and bureaucratic process so effectively.
Medway schools have always co-operated well over what are called ‘managed moves’ to a fresh school, although whether this will continue when all are independent academies remains to be seen.
How can Kent primary schools exclude children with statements in such numbers, compared to a negligible number of children without special needs, in direct contradiction to the government imperative that this should only happen in exceptional circumstances?
Why does Kent but not Medway have so many exceptional circumstances?
Once again KCC is seeing children who surely deserve the highest standard of care, at the bottom of the pile (see last week’s Kent on Sunday).
Another factor to add to KCC’s Scrutiny Committee investigation into primary school standards.
What is special about Westlands and Canterbury High apart from the fact they are outstanding Ofsted schools, that they need to take this extreme action, effectively forcing these children to less popular and successful schools, whereas others, often in far more difficult situations, appear to be able to manage better? Are they showing the future for academies?
What happens to the schools that become ‘dumping grounds’ for children excluded by other schools better able to cope with them?
Above all, why does KCC not look at Medway’s procedures to learn how to improve these dreadful figures?