Scale of school exclusions in Brighton and Hove revealed

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Children behaved so badly that they were excluded from state schools in Brighton and Hove on almost 1,700 occasions in a single year.

Almost all were fixed-period exclusions – formerly known as suspensions – with the number falling to 1,685 in 2017-18 from 1,769 the year before.

In addition, children were expelled – or permanently excluded – on 11 occasions in the most recent year for which figures are available, compared with 17 times in 2016-17.

Pupils were more likely to be temporarily excluded for persistent disruptive behaviour than for any other reason, with 379 cases in 2017-18.

But on 329 occasions students were suspended for threatening an adult or being verbally abusive, down from 421 times in 2016-17.

Pupils were excluded for a fixed period 266 times after fighting with or hitting another child and 131 times after fighting with or hitting an adult.

And on 113 occasions children were temporarily excluded over drink or drugs, up from 59 times the year before. This included smoking.

The figure almost doubled, making it the biggest rise – in absolute and percentage terms – in any of the 12 categories recorded by the Department for Education (DfE).

Suspensions for bullying dropped from 24 to seven. The number for racist abuse fell from 28 to 14. And the number for sexual misconduct went down from 10 to eight.

The DfE figures covered all state primary, secondary and special schools.

Brighton and Hove City Council said: “Drug and alcohol-related school exclusions has been an increasing issue both nationally and locally in recent years.

“Our youth substance service is called RU-OK. It works very closely with our schools, the police and the local NHS.

“Following the rise in drug and alcohol-related exclusions last year, RU-OK increased its work with schools.

“The service underlined to schools the value of being made aware of problems at the earliest possible stage – preferably before an exclusion happens. These exclusions are almost always temporary.”

Only one pupil was permanently excluded for drink or drugs in 2017-18 in Brighton and Hove – and the year before there were just four cases.

The council added: “RU-OK has an excellent track record in giving young people the support they need to tackle drug and alcohol issues and re-engage productively with their education.

“We hope this more pro-active engagement with schools will be reflected in a drop in such exclusions when the next annual figures are made available.”

The outgoing chair of the council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee, Councillor Nick Childs, said: “Reducing school exclusions is a priority for the council and across the city, so I’m really pleased to see this success.

“The council’s schools team works in very close partnership with our schools.

“With our support, schools are focusing on early identification of children at risk of exclusion and helping these children feel more included in their school community.”

The Labour councillor added: “We also encourage schools to consider other ways of responding to challenging behaviour instead of exclusions and have arranged training for school staff in this area.

“Our guidance around exclusions has been co-produced with our schools.

“This has helped make sure the guidance is practical and relevant for school staff.”

The DfE data shows marked changes over the past 10 years, with just under 1,700 exclusions in 2017-18 compared with 2008-09 when there were more than 2,500.

Some 750 pupils were suspended for being persistently disruptive 10 years ago – a figure which has almost halved to 379.

And the number of children suspended for hitting or fighting an adult has dropped from 627 to 329.

Drink and drug-related suspensions are higher – up from 70 to 113. Those for racist abuse dropped from 51 to 28 and those for sexual misconduct went down from 28 to eight.

The number of temporary exclusions classed as “other” went up from 176 to 309.

Brighton and Hove excludes a below average number of pupils, according to the figures, with schools in the north east of England topping the table.