New approach to tackling rising school exclusions in Yorkshire

Principal Colin Scott
Principal Colin Scott

Excluding disruptive students from lessons is not the answer to tackling challenges in education, a headteacher has warned, as a radical approach begins to pay dividends at a North Yorkshire secondary school.

Colin Scott, principal of Risedale Sports and Community College in Catterick, joined the school two years ago.

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Since that time, attendance has risen four percentage points. There has been a 90 per cent fall in the number of students removed from lessons.

And this month marks the sixth in a row without a single exclusion. Any student, being disruptive to get out of lessons, he said, can think again.

“It’s so easy for students to become awkward and difficult every time they don’t want to do something if they know we will send them away,” he said.

“And it’s so easy for teachers to get rid of a kid from the classroom because they are being disruptive.

“In my mind that disempowers teachers and it sends out the wrong message to students. If a teacher is not skilled to deal with a student and removes them from class that sends the message that they can’t deal with them.

“In this school exclusion is the last resort.”

Ofsted has raised concern nationally over a rising tide of school exclusions, warning over the impact on young peoples’ life chances.

Risedale is a garrison school and, with half of all students having parents in the Army, mobility is four times the national average. One student is on his 10th school, and this is not unusual.

This can bring challenges and disruption, Mr Scott, said. But with new approaches to education, changes are afoot.

The roll is rising, from 512 to 540. A deficit of £300,000 has more than halved to £120,000, and is expected to bring in a surplus this financial year.

And as a result, the school will be able to appoint a deputy head to oversee alternative provision.

Mr Scott spent 22 years as a special constable with Northumbria police. He is also an Ofsted inspector. He believes that consequences for poor behaviour must be fit for purpose. The aim is to equip children for life; not let them run away from it, he said.

“As a senior team we are very visible in the school; we move around a lot. Kids know we will challenge them and we nip little things in the bud before they become big things.

“It’s easy for people to think that if you don’t exclude challenging children that behaviour in the school will worsen,” he added.

“But we have shown that the opposite can be true. Our exclusions last term dwindled to nothing, but our removals from class also dramatically reduced.

“And attendance is improving markedly. Students here know they are wanted.”

North Yorkshire County Council is looking to reshape services in attempts to bring down exclusions.

The proposals, within high needs, has proved controversial and prompted protests. But, the authority says, it must change, to create a “more inclusive” mainstream culture, more local alternative provision, as well as make savings on massive overspend.

“Permanent exclusions have risen significantly, despite our investment in the pupil referral service,” said Coun Patrick Mulligan, executive member for education. “The present system is not working.”