Primary school exclusions up ‘because of pressure’

Reporter:

Helen Davies

PRESSURE on children, both financially and academically, is leading to an increase in exclusions from primary schools.

This is the view of councillors in the wake of figures obtained by the Leader through a Freedom of Information Request.

The alarming figures, released by Flintshire Council, shows the number of exclusions from primary schools rose from 33 in the school year 2007-8 to 50 in 2008-9.

The number of exclusions in the county’s secondary school children, however, decreased.

There were 470 pupils excluded in 2008-9 compared to 519 in the previous year.

The causes for exclusion included bullying, damage to property, disruptive behaviour, use of weapons, racial harassment, sexual harassment, substance misuse, theft, violent behaviour and verbal abuse.

Primary school teacher Cllr Ian Roberts believes increased pressure on children can lead to bad behaviour.

He said: “There’s a lot of pressure on children these days. Parents are facing pressures, they may not have much money. These pressures filter down through families to their children.

“There’s a lot of pressure of ‘why haven’t I got that’ for children when people are being made redundant.

“When I think back to when I was younger, times are a lot harder now for children.

“Schools are also being pressured for good results and that pressure is put on to children.”

Cllr Alex Aldridge, a school governor, agreed that a highly pressurised society is having an effect on children’s behaviour.

He said: “External pressures on youngsters are greater than I’ve ever known.

“When I was a young lad you could roll out of bed and get a job but now the level of competition is huge. Youngsters know if they don’t achieve academically their chances of getting a good job when they are older will be more and more difficult.

“Mums and dads are out of work but there’s material pressure on children to have things which parents can’t afford such as mobile phones.

“This pressure can cause low confidence as children feel they’re not as good as their friends. This can have a detrimental effect and may not respect peers and teachers.”

Cllr Aldridge is calling on the whole of society to support those who have been excluded.

He said: “There are many children who are achieving unbelievable results in school but it is essential we collectively get behind the children who fall foul of the system.

“We should all be concerned in society when there is a rise in exclusions because it is so important children get the best possible education in school.

“We need to turn our attention to those disengaged with society as their problems will spill through from formative years to adulthood.”

The county’s executive member for education, Cllr Nigel Steele-Mortimer, said the best place for children to learn is in mainstream education.

He said: “We have a number of PRUs (Pupil Referral Units) which excluded children go to in Flintshire. The object of these units is to get them back into mainstream education as soon as possible.”

Cllr Bernie Attridge, a parent and school governor, said exclusion should be the “last resort”.

He said: “Children only get one chance in life and should be given every opportunity to stay in school.”

Information relating to the academic year, 2009-10, will be published after it has been presented to Flintshire Council’s scrutiny committee.

See full story in the Leader

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