Union calls for more support for schools after Ofsted raises concerns over Sheffield's high exclusion rates

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders union NAHT
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders union NAHT

A union has called on headteachers to be given more support after it emerged Sheffield has some of the highest exclusion rates in the country.

The National Association of Head Teachers said secondary schools need more support for troubled students and to avoid exclusions they need help from local services around them.

The NAHT has called for more support for schools

The NAHT has called for more support for schools

Sheffield is in the top ten for the number of fixed period exclusions received by secondary school students.

READ MORE: Sheffield has one of the highest rates in England for secondary school exclusions

Ofsted has pinpointed eight councils across the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber - including Sheffield, Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham - with unusually high rates of pupil exclusions in 2015/16.

In the school year 2015-16, there were 5,688 fixed period exclusions in Sheffield - 18.75 per cent of the total secondary school population in the city.

Ofsted’s regional director for the North East and Yorkshire and the Humber, Cathy Kirby, is to write to headteachers to raise her concerns about their rates of fixed-period exclusions and will call on inspectors to look very carefully at schools’ use of exclusion when making judgements about leadership and management and pupils’ behaviour.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said exclusions of a student was 'never taken lightly and always as a last resort'.

He said: "School leaders need the autonomy to decide when and how to exclude students in order to protect the health, safety, education or well-being of other pupils and staff in the school.

READ MORE: University of Sheffield staff to begin strike action this week

"This is an area where prevention is better than cure but school budgets are at breaking point so many of the measures that schools take to ensure good behaviour and adequate support for pupils are under threat.

"We’ve seen cuts in local authority services such as behaviour support teams, combined with reductions in pastoral care.

"Speech and language therapists for pupils with additional needs are disappearing.

"In addition, there are frequently delays in providing mental health support for pupils who need it.

"Schools have also seen big cuts to high needs funding for pupils with identified Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.

"Schools can’t do it on their own. To avoid exclusions, they need support from the other local services around them.

"The issues that underpin exclusions reach far beyond the school gates, so schools need access to expert resources to help them support at an early stage those students who need more help.”

READ MORE: Failing Sheffield secondary school takes another step towards improvement, says Ofsted

Sheffield Council bosses said they are working with schools to prevent exclusions 'wherever possible'.

Councillor Jackie Drayton, cabinet member for children, young people and families at Sheffield Council, said: “We believe that schools do everything they can to ensure all children and young people are in education every day and a decision taken by a school to exclude a child or young person is never taken lightly.

“We believe that one child or one young person that is excluded is one too many and that is why we are working with schools to identify and tackle problems early, preventing exclusions whenever possible.”