THE number of pupils being expelled from Sunderland schools has doubled.
The latest figures from the Department of Education show the number of children who were permanently excluded from Wearside’s state schools rose from 20 in the academic year 2010/11 to 40 in 2011/12.
Although the vast majority of the children were pupils at secondary schools, there was a very small number from primaries in both years.
In County Durham, the overall number of permanent exclusions remained the same at 100. However, the number of primary ones dropped from 17 to 13, while secondary ones rose from 83 to 87.
In 2011/12, 17 pupils in Sunderland were kicked out for persistent disruptive behaviour, six for physical assault on a child, five for physical assault on an adult, seven for verbally abusing or threatening an adult and the remaining ones were for racist abuse, theft and verbally abusing or threatening a child.
Sunderland Tory group leader Councillor Robert Oliver, a teacher, said: “The figures show that there are severe behavioural problems in our schools with a large number of pupils excluded for assaults on classmates or teachers.
“Headteachers have had their powers to exclude pupils strengthened, and it is right that this power is used when necessary, though some schools in Sunderland exclude more readily than others.
“Schools can only go so far in dealing with pupil behaviour, which ultimately comes down to the willingness and ability of parents to bring their children up properly.”
Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson, Shadow Minister for Children and Families, said: “Numbers never tell the whole story, but it’s certainly worrying to see permanent exclusions double in just one year.
I know that it’s never a decision taken lightly by heads or governors, but I do hope that it is being used as an absolute last resort, and that the Government’s decision to scrap appeals hasn’t meant that more pupils are being unfairly excluded with no way back.”
The latest Government figures also look at the number of children who were excluded for fixed periods at some point over the academic year.
In Sunderland, the number of primary pupils being given fixed-term exclusions dropped from 207 in 2010/11 to 140 in 2011/12, for secondary pupils the figure rose from 1,047 to 1,365, and for youngsters in special needs school, the number fell from 130 to 105. In total, the percentage of children in all schools who were suspended rose from 3.45 per cent to 4.05 per cent.
Most of these suspensions were for persistent disruptive behaviour, threatening or verbally abusing an adult and assault on a fellow pupil. However, other reasons included 20 for racist abuse, 24 for bullying, 13 for sexual misconduct and 22 were drug or alcohol-related.
Councillor Pat Smith, cabinet member for children’s services at Sunderland City Council, said: “We always work closely with young people, families and their schools to provide additional guidance and support wherever it is needed. “Schools will only use permanent exclusions when all other options have been explored, and exclusion from school does not mean exclusion from the education system. Alternative provision is always made.
“Whilst it is recognised that there was an increase in permanently excluded pupils from 2010/11 to 2011/12, these figures remain an extremely small percentage of the overall number of pupils.
“Our most recent data for this academic year is also very encouraging because permanent exclusions are significantly lower than for 2011/12.
“This is due to the strong collaborative work with schools, to keep children and young people in school wherever possible.”
For Durham, the number of children given fixed-term exclusions in primary schools fell from 607 to 544, in secondary, from 2,401 to 2,350 and at special schools from 211 to 196.
The overall percentage fell from 4.55 per cent in 2010/11 to 4.38 per cent last year.
Nationally the figures show a 14 per cent rise in the number of times primary school pupils were permanently excluded from school – 690 occasions last year compared to 610 in 2010/11.
Overall, the permanent exclusion rate for all schools rose, from 5,080 in 2010/11 to 5,170 last year.