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Headteacher who excluded hundreds of pupils defends ‘robust response to transgressions’

Hampstead Secondary School has highest number of fixed term exclusions, according to FOI figures

06 April, 2019 — By Tom Foot

A HEADTEACHER says he has no qualms about taking a “robust res­ponse” to rule-breaking after new figures showed hundreds of pupils were excluded from his secondary school over five years.

Jacques Szemalikowski said “transgressions” would not be tolerated at Hampstead School, in Westbere Road, West Hampstead.

He was responding to figures, obtained by the New Journal under Freedom of Information legislation, showing the state secondary school as having issued far more “fixed-term exclusions” that any other in Camden.

Mr Szemalikowski said: “Hampstead School has very high expectations of student behaviour. Part of our consistency has always been a robust response to transgressions. “Exclusion is just one part of a wide range of strategies at our disposal. While past figures appear comparatively high, recent years have seen a huge fall in our exclusion figures.”

The statistics show the school approved 815 of these temporary exclusions over five years. The time frame which the Department for Education said official statistics were publicly avail­able for was 2012-13 to 2016-17.

The school’s exclusion rate – the ratio between exclusions and the total school roll – is an average of 14 per cent over this time Mr Szemalikowski said in 2018 the school reported just 48 fixed-term exclusions (FTEs).

The overall figures in the last two years were well below the national average for schools with comparable levels of “deprivation”, he added. Figures for 2018 have not yet been made publicly available by the government.

In 2013, Mr Szemalikowski reported a teenage blogger to police and phoned a university the former student had applied to about his “mad writings” online. The student had posted a series of articles criticising the school on the Hampstead Trash website. The headteacher told the New Journal he was worried the boy was “developing into an anarchist”.

Hampstead’s 815 FTEs are followed by Haverstock – a school comparable in size – which recorded 546 over the same period. Regent High, also with more than 1,000 pupils on its school roll, was next with 398. At Haverstock, 11 pupils were permanently excluded – the most severe form of punishment available to schools – in a single year. Not all schools have provided permanent exclusion figures, the DfE said.

Senior experts in the field, the Children’s Commissioner Ann Longfield and Coram’s charity chief executive Dr Carol Homden, have told the New Journal how exclusions can have lasting impact on young people’s lives.

Teaching union chiefs say levels of funding to schools mean there are fewer teaching assistants and less time to help address the most challenging behaviour among children

. A scrutiny panel at Camden Council is due to probe the link between high levels of exclusions and youth crime. Its own figures showed almost 10 per cent of all secondary school pupils had been excluded in a single year

. Education chief Councillor Angela Mason said: “We are driving down exclusions, working closely with schools and opening new facilities to provide specialist support. “We have just opened the new satellite at Rhyl Primary School for children at risk of exclusion, which provides a space where they can be removed from the classroom for a period of time and get the intensive support they need so they are more able to cope in school.”

She added: “We have a similar programme for secondary school children and are considering options for where this could be permanently based.”

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