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The touchy-feely brigade
refers to this as a de-escalation
technique. Me? I call it
surrender to abject thuggery

The exclusion debate
The recent
or improvised weapon totalled 1,009, up from 992 the overused. “You get cases of children being excluded thuggery,” he wrote in The Scotsman. “If the blade
year before. This is an almost threefold increase on or suspended because they threw a snowball. That’s carrier thought for one moment he would be excluded
2004/05’s figure of 388. inappropriate. For me it has to be the very end of the and have to find a school outside his gang’s territorial
Exclusions for physical assault without a weapon line. It has to be used as a real sanction, not as and when borders, it might cause him to think twice.”
were 5,961, down from 6,417 in 2006/07 but 20 per it comes up on someone’s whim and fancy,” she said. Ms peckham agrees that the failure to permanently
figures for
cent higher than in 2004/05. of the total, 4,831 were “For some children the danger is that school is a exclude pupils who commit serious offences repeatedly
assaults on pupils and 1,312 on staff. safer place than home and although you may want to “isn’t helpful”.
Scottish schools
Exclusions for verbal abuse of staff totalled a exclude them there are other considerations you have But she expects local authorities to become more
staggering 10,326. Can much consolation be drawn to make. consistent in the next few years, both in the way they
showed promising
from the fact that it was down from 11,601 the year “however, the days of heads believing that if they use exclusions and their divulgence.
before? exclude a pupil it looks bad on them are slowly fading. she said: “The National Behaviour survey is under
Exclusions involving drink or drugs rose by 15 They are accepting that there are instances where way, which will cover everything from low-level stuff
progress. However, many
per cent and 26 per cent respectively to 383 and 387. exclusion is the right way to go but maybe because like kids chatting at the back of the room, to assaults
By any reckoning these are high numbers, fall or no there are other intervention strategies in place too, that’s and weaponry and everything else. once that’s collated
educationalists are still
fall. But what is more disturbing is that unions argue helping the situation.” there’ll be a far better pool of information.”
that the figures do not even accurately reflect levels of A few weeks ago a pupil threw a chair at Ms Gray, Ken Cunningham, former headteacher of hillhead
concerned about the
indiscipline in some schools. and though nobody was in danger of injury, he was high in Glasgow and now general secretary of the
“We know from what our members are telling us excluded for a few days – a clear-cut case where it school Leaders scotland union, said: “You should
problems that teachers
that incidents that could potentially result in exclusion was justified, she says. however, appropriate back-up always look at these kind of figures with a great degree
are not being reported,” said Jane peckham of the is vital. of caution. They’re only a rough, rough guide. There’s
NAsUWT union. “There’s a massive issue with under- “You will generally find – and some will disagree a lot of inconsistency across the country in how they are
are facing. Sam Phipps
reporting, largely due to workload implications.” – that the children who tend to perpetrate such acts recorded and what counts as an exclusion.
In effect this means the paperwork associated with have additional needs, whether they’re mental health “different authorities have different regulations
analyses the figures
an exclusion often deters teachers from seeking one needs or emotional needs, that are not being met. about how many days you can exclude somebody and
from their headteacher. “A lot of teachers think: what’s That particular child concerned has been referred to what permanent exclusion actually is. For instance, does
the point of reporting it? or they do report it but it’s not additional support and has not been a problem since, transferring a child from one school to another within
getting any further,” Ms peckham added. well, not on such a grand scale,” Ms Gray said. the same authority count? so I will welcome what
shArp drop in exclusions can A few years ago, education departments were “We all lose our temper sometimes. We all say and will come out in the near future from the government,
only be good news, can’t it? on put under pressure by central government to reduce do things we regret. You have to balance up how you i.e. some degree of clarity on how exclusions are
the face of it, yes. The first thing it exclusions as a matter of policy. That no longer applies, respond and react. simply to exclude and not look at operated.”
implies is a dramatic improvement and local authorities are largely free to set their own root causes is pointless. But additional support of any his views are borne out by the figures, which show
in pupils’ overall behaviour. But criteria for dealing with indiscipline. kind of course means additional expenditure and at this that 24 of scotland’s 32 local authorities did not remove
look a little deeper into the 11 however, if under-reporting is one factor behind the moment we’re all well aware there isn’t necessarily the any pupils from their registers at all. These included
per cent fall for 2007/08 that was fall, some educationalists point to more constructive money for that.” councils such as dundee, which had the highest rate of
announced recently in scotland and the picture is less ways of dealing with indiscipline. The actual number of children excluded was 20,600, exclusions for the whole of scotland.
rosy than the official version. Gordon smith, former president of the Association with some suspended several times. Although the government is also committed to
“The significant drop in exclusions is a clear of headteachers and deputes in scotland, told SecEd: Ms peckham said that headteachers and staff often looking at patterns of behaviour and the success or
indication that the range of approaches and provision “I wouldn’t look at these figures and say they show a faced extremely tough conditions in the face of the otherwise of major initiatives implemented in the last
available within and beyond school is working,” marked difference in behaviour patterns. I would say weapons culture, for instance. few years, the economic climate will restrict what can
said the then schools minister Maureen Watt of the they maybe reflect a greater capacity of schools to deal “A lot of good work is going on, particularly at the be done, Mr Cunningham argues. he added: “There is a
combined drop in suspensions and expulsions last year with this in more constructive ways. early intervention stage,” she explained. real danger that when you get a financial squeeze some
at primary and secondary. The number fell to 39,717 “There’s still a case for having children with very “This will take a long time to filter through. I of those elements may be reduced.”
from 44,794. challenging behaviour not attending the school on wouldn’t be comfortable about slating the authorities other strategies, like the “restorative practice” of
“(It) reflects the concerted work of whole school a day-to-day basis, but what society has to do is and the mismanagement of behaviour. A lot’s been reconciling transgressor and victim through dialogue,
communities and local authorities to improve behaviour make alternative arrangements for that child because done, but there’s still a lot to do.” are not necessarily cost intensive per se, except where
and relationships, especially of those pupils at risk of otherwise you are just transferring that behaviour however, some teachers describe a climate that is they rely on other agencies working within schools,
becoming disengaged and excluded,” Ms Watt added. outside school. too weighted to the offender. he said.
secondary exclusions alone fell even more, by 12 “The teaching profession is adapting quite quickly, hugh reilly, a teacher with long inner- “It’s a mixed message. If the number is down we’re
per cent to 37,566, peaking in the third year. even though the parameters set by society and the law city experience, argues that “thanks to the current delighted to see that. But clearly, the level of serious
however, it would be misguided to see this as a are sometimes hard to follow. But people are realising mollycoddling climate”, a pupil caught with a knife in incidents is still cause for concern and we would
quantum leap for classroom discipline. A closer look at that any form of target-setting on exclusions doesn’t class can expect to be sent home for five days before continue to look for full support for headteachers and
the data, combined with the views of teaching unions address the issue at all.” returning to school. staff in addressing those issues.” SecEd
and staff, gives rather more cause for concern. Linda Gray, a teacher who declined to identify the “The touchy-feely brigade refers to this as a de-
Exclusions stemming from assault with a weapon authority in which she works, says exclusion can be escalation technique. Me? I call it surrender to abject • Sam Phipps is a freelance education journalist.
SecEd • April 2 2009 15
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