CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Camden criticised for ‘high’ exclusion rate of vulnerable pupils

Town Hall has stepped back from full scale investigation into number of children being removed from school

03 November, 2019 — By Tom Foot

INSPECTORS have ordered Camden to sort out its “high” exclusion rates of vulnerable pupils.

The education and care watchdogs Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission carried out a joint inspection of council services for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in May.

A final report, leaked to the New Journal this week, listed permanent exclusions of children with special needs as one of two “areas for development”.

Inspector Jane Moon’s report said: “The permanent exclusion rate for children and young people receiving SEN support is high. Leaders know this indicates that pupils’ needs may not be being met successfully.”

Statistically, children with special educational needs, like autism, or physical disabilities are more likely to be excluded from school than their classmates.

Last year, a tribunal ruled that better protection should be given to these children following a legal challenge against the Department for Education.

The court ruling said SEND pupils should not be so freely punished with exclusion for behaviour they may not be able to control.

Figures released to the New Journal from the DfE, under Freedom of Information legislation in April this year, showed that Camden Centre for Learning had an unusually high rate for fixed-term (temporary) exclusions in 2016/17.

Jolanta Lasota, chief executive of the charity Ambitious about Autism, which runs specialist autism schools across London, including TreeHouse School, told the New Journal: “The impact of these exclusions can’t be underestimated – not only do children fall behind academically, but the isolation from their peers creates deep unhappiness, social anxiety and mental health problems that can continue long into adulthood. “Autistic pupils have different needs – but this shouldn’t make them more at risk of being shut out of school. We need to work harder at supporting difference and making the school system a more inclusive place for all pupils.”

Last month, the council’s children’s scrutiny committee (CQC) heard how almost 700 children had been excluded from Camden schools – the vast majority were on a temporary basis – in a single year. But the council ­stepped back from launching a full panel inquiry.

Analysis of the figures found that 9.7 per cent of those excluded in the borough were from a Somali background while 9 per cent are black Caribbean.

A new unit is soon to be launched at Haverstock School for pupils at risk of being excluded, while provision at Rhyl Primary School sees pupils attend for two terms before being reintegrated

. The Ofsted and CQC report said it was too soon to determine what impact these measures would have. It praised the service on several levels and the “dynamic and purposeful leadership” in Camden that had “continued to secure improvement” for SEND children generally.

A Camden Council spokesman said: “The joint report highlighted numerous strengths in how we support children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities and was very complimentary about the service as a whole. Where areas for development are recommended, we are taking steps to respond and ensure that pupils’ needs are appropriately met.”

He added: “The decision to exclude a child is made by schools themselves. It is always a last resort and permanent exclusions are used by schools only in exceptional circumstances. At the point of exclusion, Camden Council will always work with the child, family and school to support them and help meet their educational

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