The opposition education spokesperson at Suffolk County Council, Cllr Jack Abbott, has raised serious concerns about the nature of pupil exclusions in Suffolk after it was revealed that the number of secondary school pupils with referrals for exclusion dramatically increases in March.
Figures obtained by the Labour Group show that the average number of secondary pupils with a referral to be excluded every month excluding March is less than six. In March 2018 the total number of secondary children with a referral for exclusion was 43.
This has sparked alarm as these figures could indicate an attempt to remove pupils from mainstream schools ahead of their GCSEs meaning that only the best performing children take their exams.
This is a practice known as ‘off-rolling’ and, whilst it is against the rules, there is concern that some schools have found ways of removing children who are likely to get lower grades at Key Stage 4. The removal of these children will mean that schools will appear to get better overall GCSE results than would otherwise be the case.
It is notable that the number of children returning to mainstream school has no such spike at any time during the rest of the year.
Children excluded from school are also more likely to have lower educational outcomes and are at a much great risk of harm and exploitation than those who are in school.
Cllr Abbott said; “These figures show a very worrying pattern. I don’t think that it is a coincidence that the numbers of children with a referral for exclusion spikes just before their GCSEs. In February 2018 there were two referrals, but in March there were 43.
“Off-rolling is a serious issue and, whilst I hope that no school in Suffolk would knowingly undertake this practice, the county council needs to look into why this is occurring as a matter of urgency.
“It is a well-documented fact that children who are excluded from school have much worse educational outcomes harming their life chances in the process. Those that do not complete their education have lower paid jobs, lower standard of housing and are more susceptible to mental and physical health issues.
“We need to ensure that no child is being removed inappropriately from their school and to guarantee that all children have the support and guidance needed to make the best choices for their long-term future”.