Sheffield MP brands school ‘shameful’ after more than a quarter of pupils excluded

Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh.
Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh.

A Sheffield MP has branded the number of exclusions at a Sheffield school ‘shameful’ after teachers excluded more than a quarter of pupils in the last year.

Louise Haigh,MP for Sheffield Heeley, said figures from the Department for Education showed 26.7 per cent of pupils were handed at least once exclusion during the 2016/17 academic year – almost six times the national average of 4.5 per cent.

Coun Jayne Dunn, Sheffield Council's cabinet member for education and skills.

Coun Jayne Dunn, Sheffield Council's cabinet member for education and skills.

The MP said the figures also showed a ‘clear trend of academics giving our far more fixed exclusions than local authority maintained schools’.

Ms Haigh said: “Exclusions have been on the up for years, and it is very worrying indeed that Outwood have reached a situation of excluding six times more pupils than the national average.

“Exclusion should be an option of last resort because we know how damaging it can be to those it affects.

“The clear majority of young people in detention were excluded from school, and it leaves young people much more vulnerable both to becoming victims of violent crime, and to committing it.”

Outwood Academy City.

Outwood Academy City.

The Department for Education figures revealed that a total of 5,690 fixed-term exclusions were handed out to children during the 2016/17 academic year - an increase of two on the previous term.

The latest figures showed the numbers of pupils banned continued to rise on 2015/16 and up more than 1,800 than in the 2014/15 academic year, when 3,875 pupils were handed fixed-term exclusions.

A total of 96 children were also permanently excluded from school, which again was an increase on the previous year's figure of 75.

The city was ranked in the top ten for the number of fixed period exclusions received by secondary school students in 2015/16 and Ofsted's regional director for the North East and Yorkshire and the Humber, Cathy Kirby wrote to schools to raise her concerns.

She also called on inspectors to look very carefully at schools’ use of exclusion when making judgements about leadership and management and pupils’ behaviour.

A fixed-period exclusion means a pupil is barred from attending school for a set period of time, which can be anything from part of a school day up to a maximum of 45 days within a single academic year. This does not have to be continuous; pupils can be excluded for more than one fixed period.

Ms Haigh said: “The rise of academisation and the rise in exclusions have occurred simultaneously and it’s clear that’s no coincidence.

“Colleagues from across the country have told me of similar stories in schools run by the same chain as Outwood, and they have serious questions to answer about their exclusion policies.”

Martyn Oliver, chief executive officer at Outwood Grange Academies Trust, said the number during the current academic year had fallen.

He said: "Both academic standards and behaviour standards continue to rise throughout the academy with fixed, temporary exclusions, continuing to fall. Attendance is also at a record high with more and more students attending on time and working hard every day.

"The academy receives numerous comments from students and parents alike who thank the hard-working staff who continue to transform the school at pace."

Sheffield Council approved plans in September 2017 to bring in further measures to bring down the exclusion rate, including creating six 'engagement hubs' to help troubled pupils to reintegrate into mainstream schooling.

Coun Jayne Dunn, cabinet member for education and skills, also said funding was an issue in the city's schools.

She said: “Every child in our city has the right to the very best education and opportunities. That’s why in Labour’s local election manifesto we promised to work to prevent unnecessary exclusions.

“We know that teachers and schools are under enormous pressure and we know that government funding for Sheffield schools is incredibly low compared with similar cities.

“Schools are working hard to prevent exclusions but we want to ensure that they are supported as best as they can be. This is why we will be implementing new strategies to tackle problems early before a child’s behaviour gets to the point of exclusion, and we will make an announcement about how we will do this in the coming months.  

“I am proud that our council now has two dedicated cabinet members for children and education. This is because as we know there is more to be done for the city’s young and we are committed to achieving this.”