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700 exclusions from Islington school in just one year

City of London Academies Trust defends ‘new behaviour policies’ at Highbury Grove

14 August, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

Ken Muller: ‘This problem will be even more acute when and if schools are able to return in September’

A SECONDARY school in Islington has dished out more than 700 exclusions in a single year, according to latest figures.

The City of London Academy Highbury Grove, part of the City’s chain of schools, gave out 709 fixed-term exclusions in the 2018/19 academic year, leading to fears that disadvantaged pupils will suffer.

The City has defended its approach and said that since Highbury Grove switched to being an academy school, Ofsted inspectors have praised the “new behaviour policies” for bringing about “swift and effective improvements”.

Across Islington, Department for Education (DfE) statistics show that the total number of fixed-term exclusions, also known as suspensions, has increased for the third consecutive year, from 1,251 in 2016/17 to 1,912 in 2018/19.

Ken Muller, a spokesman for the National Education Union (NEU), said: “The rising number of school exclusions in Islington is certainly a matter of concern to us, especially after the recent publication of figures showing that black children in England disproportionately face fixed-term exclusion – by a factor of three in some areas of the country.”

He added: “Ten years of austerity, the chronic underfunding of schools and the pressure of league tables have progressively increased pressure on schools to penalise and exclude pupils with learning and behavioural needs rather than support them.

“This problem will be even more acute when and if schools are able to return in September, given the stress and deprivation so many children have been experiencing during the lockdown.”

Since Highbury Grove became an academy in 2017 its fixed-period exclusions have increased by almost 300 per cent.

A City of London spokeswoman said: “The school joined the City of London Academies Trust after it was put into the “special measures category” following an “Inadequate” Ofsted judgement under previous management, during which time there was a spike in permanent exclusions.

“Since joining the Trust, new behaviour policies have been put in place and the school was quickly praised by Ofsted for its ‘swift’ and ‘effective’ improvements to pupil behaviour, which has been transformed.

“Permanent exclusions have fallen significantly and continue to fall. Exam results are improving and staff are now providing a very high standard of education in a safe and purposeful environment.”

A council investigation into the high rate of exclusions in Islington was concluded last year. Town Hall leader Richard Watts said he had made reducing the number a policy priority.

A DfE spokeswoman said: “We will always back headteachers to use exclusions as part of ­creating calm and disciplined classrooms that bring out the best in every pupil, but permanent exclusion should only ever be a last resort.

“We know that some pupils will return to school in September having experienced loss or adversity as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which is why we have also provided guidance for school leaders on how to re-engage these pupils and create the right classroom environment to help them thrive.”

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