Excluded pupils key issue for new education chief

Pupils who are excluded from school will be one of the top priorities for Sheffield’s new education chief.

By Lucy Ashton
Monday, 10 June, 2019, 13:40
Coun Abtisam Mohamed. Picture Scott Merrylees

Coun Abtisam Mohamed is the council’s new cabinet member for education and skills and says one of the key issues is actually keeping young people in school.

Permanent school exclusions in England have been rising since 2013 and MPs recently warned that excluded pupils are at a higher risk of becoming involved in crime.

“It’s something that schools can’t tackle on their own. Alternative provision has to be available, it needs to be stronger and offered earlier on.

“Preventative work needs to be done at a much earlier stage, as soon as behavioural problems are noticed.”

National statistics also show pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are nine times more likely to be excluded from school than their peers, and account for 70 per cent of all permanent exclusions.

Coun Mohamed says there needs to be more work with teachers so they can understand and help SEND children.

“What are we doing to address the needs of SEND children much earlier on?

“I may be having discussions with Sheffield Hallam University about how students doing teaching degrees are educated on dealing with SEND children. We need to adapt to changing needs and there is a growing number of children wanting to access support.

“Teachers have a difficult job and if they are newly qualified and just coming into the role, it’s already frightening but I do think there needs to be more training on looking after and educating SEND children.”

Coun Mohamed’s portfolio includes schools, colleges, further and higher education and one of her challenges is to bring all these bodies together.

Learn Sheffield is a not for profit schools company which is focused on school improvement. Sheffield’s schools and colleges own 80 per cent of the organisation in partnership with Sheffield Council which owns 20 per cent.

“We don’t have an education and skills strategy for the city so I want to look at all the partners and bring that all together,” she says.

“We have a good relationship with Learn Sheffield – it’s one of Sheffield’s best kept secrets and is an example of very good practice. We also have a strong relationship through Sheffield Schools Forum.

“There are different types of academies, some trusts are citywide and some are national, so it can be fractured but this is where a citywide organisation like Learn Sheffield is at its best.

“Schools are independent from the council and they can decide what they want to do but they don’t ignore the council, they do look to us to be a holistic model.”