Steep increase in pupils sent home from secondaries

THE number of pupils kicked out of Camden's secondary schools has shot up dramatically, the Ham&High can reveal

Ben McPartland

THE number of pupils kicked out of Camden's secondary schools has shot up dramatically, the Ham&High can reveal.

New figures show pupils were excluded from secondary schools 1,104 times in the 2006/07 academic year for transgressions including sexual misconduct, verbal abuse and drugs.

The number of exclusions has rocketed from the previous academic year, when pupils were sent home 886 times and in 2004/05 when the figure was 822.

The rise will prove worrying for those who believe troublemakers should be dealt with at school. But Camden Council's education boss Cllr Andrew Mennear said he supported the decisions of headteachers.

He said: "Obviously no-one wants to go about excluding pupils. However, if their behaviour is such that it is affecting staff or if it is some form of violence, then I fully support the headteachers to take whatever step they consider necessary.

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"The government is looking at this issue already and I think Camden has a system that works well.

"I don't want to see disruptive pupils in schools. It is up to a headteacher to say how discipline is ensured in our schools. I have confidence in our heads that they can provide a secure setting for learning."

Cllr Mennear said the £200million Building Schools for the Future (BSF) investment programme in secondary schools should help reduce the figures.

"I am hoping BSF will create different ways of learning and encourage pupils to look at learning in a different way, which will reduce the need for head teachers to take this action in the future," he said.

Almost all of the exclusions are for a fixed period of time, decided by the headteacher, and can range from one or two days up to several weeks.

Pupils' offences have ranged from sexual misconduct, bullying, drugs and alcohol offences to verbally abusing adults.

Bosses at Parliament Hill secondary on Highgate Road took swift action this year to exclude five girls who were involved in a lunch-time brawl in Kentish Town.

Chairman of governors John Clark said sending pupils home can act as a wake up call.

"There are reports to show children do behave better after an exclusion, but you just have to take it case by case," he said.

"It can challenge them. We do a lot of work with them prior to the exclusion, which could include talking to their parents. There is a huge amount of work going on. Any exclusion is documented in great detail. It's a very time-consuming process."

There were also 14 troublemakers expelled from school permanently compared to 11 last year.

Most of the children were considered too troublesome to be allowed back and were sent to one of Camden's pupil referral units, where they are given more specialist support.