Action promised as pupil suspensions double in Wakefield district schools
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Education leaders plan to introduce a range of measures to tackle the problem.
Efforts are also being made to improve school attendance rates which fall below the national average.
Latest data shows that 589 fixed term suspensions were issued to pupils across the district during December 2024 – 60 per cent up on the same month for 2023.
The statistic has shown up as a ‘red flag’ on Wakefield Council’s latest performance indicator data.
Councillors and senior officers discussed the issue at a meeting of the authority’s overview and scrutiny management board.
Vicky Schofield, corporate director for children and young people services, said there had been a 100 per cent increase in fixed term exclusion between January 2020 and mid 2023.
Elizabeth Rhodes, councillor for Wakefield North ward, asked: “What work is being done to bring this in line with the strategy of the authority?”
Ms Schofield replied: “It’s probably important to say that the context needs to be understood.
“Back in January 2020 things in schools were very different to how they are now.
“We were just coming in to the pandemic period when children weren’t going to school. We did see a dip in fixed term exclusions.
“If we look back further we will see that exclusions were higher.
“Not withstanding that, I think it is important for me to say that this is an issue that the system recognises that this not where we want to be.
“We don’t want children to be excluded for a fixed term or permanently.”
Ms Schofield said efforts had been made in recent months to “engage system leaders”.
The chief executives of multi academy trusts have been invited for talks to “focus on priorities.”
The meeting heard school inclusion panels are also looking at ways to “exhaust all opportunities” before suspensions or exclusions are handed out.
Ms Schofield continued: “I think what this data shows is that we need to do more and review that process to ensure that it is making as much difference as possible.”
Councillor Richard Forster, who chairs the council’s children and young people scrutiny committee, said: “We have asked for a detailed piece of work to cover what is going on with exclusion. Particularly the response from academies.”
Councillors also heard details of a new school attendance strategy which was introduced at the start of the 2023 autumn term.
The rates of school non-attendance has doubled nationally since the pandemic.
Wakefield falls slightly below the national average.
Ms Schofield said the authority had recruited seven extra educational welfare officers to address anxiety-related absence in children.
The senior officer said a new attendance recording system has also been introduced across the district.
Explaining the process, she said: “Schools data is not very easy for the local authority to see.
“A lot of the data is held in schools and that is not always accessible to us.
“We rely on that being reported and then we ask questions.
“What we have done over the last year in Wakefield is quite unusual.
“We have implemented a new electronic recording system which will allow us to have visibility of all schools’ data.
“We will record it ourselves.
“Because we can now see the problem, we can begin to target our response.
“We can see where children are being excluded on a fixed term basis and we can see the problems that may be broader than school.
“We can then target our response and it will enable us to do more.
Ms Schofield added: “Attendance is a complicated issue, as is exclusion.
“It requires everyone in the system to try to work on the issues that prompt that.
“That is the work we are trying to do through the education strategy.
“We know it is a position that needs to improve for Wakefield’s children.”