Education chiefs to face questions over exclusions at Sunderland schools

Education chiefs have been called on to ensure transparency over the number of exclusions at Sunderland schools.

Monday, 9th September 2019, 2:00 pm
Updated Monday, 9th September 2019, 6:28 pm
Red House Academy recorded the highest fixed-term exclusion rate in England during 2017/18, with 254 pupils excluded at least once

But that was six months after figures had been presented to Sunderland City Council in February 2019 showing a massive spike in the rate of exclusions in 2017/18.

And despite showing figures for every secondary school in the city, including one which excluded more than 250 pupils in the last academic year – now revealed to be Red House – officials refused to identify them.

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At the time, Labour councillor Phil Tye criticised the decision, saying he thought there was a “duty” to name the individual schools.

He again raised concerns over exclusions after the revelation over Red House and said he would be ensuring the issue was investigated by the Children, Education and Skills Scrutiny Committee on which he sits.

“We scrutinised this and saw the alarm bells in February, prior to these figures coming out,” said Coun Tye.

“From that data we could see two thirds of the pupils had special educational needs and over 50% were excluded, which was totally unacceptable and I look forward to the new data coming forward.

“They say they have reduced [exclusions] but I would like to see the numbers now and I will be calling it into the next scrutiny committee.”

February’s report was presented to Sunderland City Council’s (SCC) Children, Education and Skills Scrutiny Committee by Simon Marshall, director of education at Together for Children (TfC), the organisation responsible for Sunderland’s children’s services, who claimed the numbers had been anonymised to protect his working relationships with individual schools and the body was ‘not at liberty’ to release the information.

Following the latest revelations, Mr Marshall said TfC worked with ‘all partners’, including schools and academies, to reduce exclusions.

He added: “[TfC and SCC] have recently provided a £1.4million injection to regenerate the Link School Sunderland and have created 70 additional alternative provision places for pupils at risk of exclusion.”

Northern Education Trust, which runs Red House Academy, said some exclusions could be as short as a few hours and numbers had now started to fall, with pupils said to be ‘feeling safer’.

In February Coun Tye said it was the ‘duty’ of education bosses to name and shame the worst offending schools.

He said: “I’m not prepared to accept anonymised data any more and I hope the committee supports that position.

“My view is scrutiny should be open not just to the council but also to the public and they should be able to see the data – anonymised data is not acceptable.”