Concern for vulnerable children after 250 school exclusions for Sunderland youngsters in care

School children in care in Sunderland were excluded for the equivalent of almost 250 days last year, new figures show.

Friday, 11th October 2019, 06:00 am
Updated Friday, 11th October 2019, 13:15 pm
Stock picture from Pixabay

According to the latest figures, Wearside’s 52 ‘looked after’ youngsters were sent home for a combined total of 246.5 days in 2018/19.

The numbers prompted Coun Louise Farthing, Sunderland City Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, to question whether schools were doing enough to help their most vulnerable pupils.

She said: “There’s been quite a bit in the media about certain of our secondary schools where discipline seems to be prioritised and the needs of the child is second to that. I’m concerned about children with behavioural issues and how they deal with those sorts of schools.”

Coun Farthing was speaking at a meeting of the council’s Corporate Parenting Panel.

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A report from the city’s ‘virtual school’, which provides extra teaching and support for looked after children, said just seven pupils had accounted for 90 days of exclusions.

Reasons for exclusion in 2018/19 had included attacks on fellow pupils and school staff, verbal abuse and threatening behaviour, but it added there had been no ‘permanent exclusions’ of looked after children during the year.

“Two of our secondary schools, it’s fair to say, have had a very difficult year in terms of behaviour management,” said Jill Colbert, chief executive of Together for Children, the organisation responsible for children’s services in Sunderland.

“One has now recruited an early help worker which has resulted in significant improvement in the behaviour and fixed term exclusions.

“And another school which had a turbulent year are also purchasing early help staffing and working with our school improvement service.”

Earlier this year is was revealed Red House Academy, in Sunderland, had the highest fixed-term exclusion rate in England during 2017/18, with 254 pupils excluded at least once.

At Monday’s meeting, Linda Mason, headteacher at Sunderland’s Virtual School for Looked After Children, said she wanted to see all children in care in the city of a ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ school.

“However, we have to carefully assess the needs of a child in any school setting and we would never automatically remove a child from a school because of the results of an Ofsted inspection,” she added.