It’s time Sheffield schools reconsidered excluding pupils and kept them in the classroom

7-year-old Eve Reid, from Eccleston, had her hair cut for charity at the Colour Room in Heskin
7-year-old Eve Reid, from Eccleston, had her hair cut for charity at the Colour Room in Heskin

Lessons began again at Sheffield schools this week, as another academic year kicks off and all the city’s children move up year groups.

The September return can be a stressful time for everyone but getting back into the swing of things tends only to take a day or two.

Hopefully, most young people in the city have enjoyed their return to school but sadly others will not have settled in as well as either the children, parents or teachers had hoped.

By the time we reach the end of the first couple of weeks, some students will have been given fixed-term exclusions and been told to stay at home for a period of time.

This could be down to flouting strict uniform rules, being disruptive in the classroom or getting into a scuffle.

This week, concern has been raised about the number of exclusions that have been dished out by some schools and the effect it is having on the kids.

A report found 45 schools across the country had handed out the punishment to more than 20 per cent of children.

A major user of exclusions, The Guardian found, is Outwood Grange Academies Trust – a large organisation which has some schools in South Yorkshire.

This way internal isolations are implemented in some schools has raised eyebrows, with some punishment rooms coming across as places akin to prisons.

The Outwood Academies have behaviour policies that see students in internal isolation sitting at tiny booths, staring forward and often having no work to do, a treatment that can least hours and leave ,some students shaken after it.

In Sheffield, there is a huge discrepancy between the way fixed exclusions and internal isolations are applied at different schools.

Figures show that the number of exclusions issued across the city are falling, which is a great thing to see, but currently they still remain above the national average.

Some probably don’t use them enough in a bid to tackle bad behaviour, some lean too far towards giving exclusions and others issue the red card to send students home far more than is necessary.

Supporters of Draconian policies would argue the aim is to hit the children hard, that students flouting the behaviour policy will be dealt with swiftly and seriously in a bid to stop them disrupting learning again.

It can be hard to determine where to draw the line, to decide when a pupil’s behaviour has become severe enough to have them sent home.

But too many school, in Sheffield and beyond, are excluding and isolated our children far more than is necessary.

And that means a minority of the headteachers in this city need to have a long hard look at their policies to judge whether they are positioning their tolerance at the correct point.

We all want to see the teaching and learning in our city continue to improve and so ultimately the golden rule for schools is to keep children in the classrooms.

They do not learn in isolation rooms, they cannot learn at home on their games console and they will make no progress sitting on their smart phones instead of sitting on a chair in the classroom.

Why headteachers cannot see this and make the relevant adjustments is a mystery to me.

But it remains a problem at some schools in Sheffield and many more across the country.

Having your child sent home can be immensely upsetting for parents, who will understandably worry about whether their little darling is a major trouble-causer.

In too many instances at some schools, children are being sent home for ludicrous reasons; a flash of dye in their hair or a word out of line and it seems that a quick exclusion is being seen as an easy option.

It’s about time that the main offenders start looking for alternative methods to keep children in the classroom, even if it may involve tough choices and difficult paths.