To provide an update on the rate of exclusion and home education in Gloucestershire.
To receive a presentation.
14.1 The committee agreed to consider school off-rolling and the Permanent Exclusions Task Group update together as they were interlinked. The committee received a detailed presentation from the Head of Services for Children with Additional Needs. (The report and presentation slides were included in the agenda pack.)
14.2 The committee was informed that the number of permanent exclusions had levelled out since the significant increase between 2013 and 2016, but was still too high. In 2017/18 there were 3 secondary schools responsible for almost a quarter of the exclusions. These schools were Cheltenham Bournside School, Gloucester Academy and Beaufort School (Gloucester) The number of children in Gloucestershire home educated had been rising, although the number of new children has started to decline slightly. In general, the number of children home educated increased with the age of the child, with over a quarter of newly home educated children being in KS4. It was important to remember that parents did not have to inform the local authority that they were home educating their child; this made both the local and national picture unclear.
14.3 With regard to off rolling the committee was informed that Ofsted particularly focussed on years 5 and 6 and 10 and 11 as these were examination years for children. The presentation focused on KS4 (years 10 and 11) as it was known that there were more challenges in the secondary sector. Between 2016 and 2017 184 year 10 and 11 children left school; this equated to 43% of all children leaving secondary school, and a higher proportion were vulnerable children (this reflected the national position).
14.4 The committee was informed that the number of children leaving school in years 10 and 11 varied between districts from over a half of children in the Forest of Dean to a third in the Cotswolds. It was clear that there was work required to understand this position. The presentation showed that that the majority of secondary schools had lost at least one pupil, with 16 losing more than 5, and 7 with much higher levels. Ofsted had identified the 3 schools that had much higher levels than others over a two year period. Council officers have visited these schools to discuss the data and context and this will also be picked up by Ofsted as part of the inspection regime. These schools were Barnwood Park (Gloucester), Tewkesbury School and All Saints Academy (Cheltenham). In response to questions it was acknowledged that there were particular challenges in Gloucester.
14.5 It was hoped that the Department of Education Review of School Exclusions Chaired by Edward Timpson would offer helpful insights/advice and robust recommendations to government. The report was expected to be published April 2019. It was clear that off rolling was a complex issue and the Director of Education recommended a report from the ISOS Partnership/LGA which discussed whether the system had reached the tipping point with regard to spend on children with complex needs, and included detailed discussion on off rolling. (For information the report was available at this link http://www.isospartnership.com/publications.html.)
14.6 The Head of Services for Children with Additional Needs informed the committee of the work in place in Gloucestershire which aimed to reduce the number of exclusions and off rolling. This included Restorative Practice and the development of local inclusion clusters. The committee was pleased to note that 61 exclusions had been mitigated since January 2017.
14.7 In response to questions it was stated that it was known that social deprivation does influence permanent exclusions and that traditionally data has been based on the school. However members were informed that officers were now looking at tracking exclusions by the child’s place of residence.
14.8 The committee was reminded that the Cabinet had agreed additional funding for Restorative Practice (RP). The committee was informed that the mental health trailblazer programme was being linked into restorative practice, with some trailblazer staff being trained in RP. The Adverse Childhood Experiences Panel (ACEs) now had an education subgroup looking at these issues as well.
14.9 The Permanent Exclusions Task Group had recommended that schools be encouraged to take up the option of RP and there was some frustration at the number of schools that had signed up. However members were reminded that this was intense work that required a lot of school resources, and took time to embed. It was important that schools be in a position where they felt able to commit fully to this programme of work. The Clifton Diocese representative on the committee informed members that her school was taking forward RP and explained the intensity of the work involved. She also informed members that she was on the ACEs education sub group.
14.10 It was questioned whether officers interviewed parents who had removed their child from school to try and get underneath the issues. However, members were reminded that parents were not required to inform the local authority. Where the council did know about pupils home educated parents were offered support; the council was responsible for those children identified as missing education.
14.11 The School Exclusions Review led by Edward Timpson was due to be published this year and the committee would want to understand the implications of this report for Gloucestershire.