Heads in Northampton hope to invest in new facility to avoid formally excluding disruptive pupils

Tim Marston, headteacher at Northampton International Academy.
Tim Marston, headteacher at Northampton International Academy.

One academy chain in Northampton is leading the way to reduce the number of school exclusions by asking countywide headteachers to pay for a 40-place exclusion provision.

East Midlands Academy Trust has asked headteachers in Northamptonshire to back their initiative to reduce the number of school exclusions, and not off-roll children from their registers.

By Ofsted definition, off-rolling is the practice of removing a pupil from the school without a formal, permanent exclusion or by encouraging a parent to remove their child from the school roll when the removal is primarily in the interests of the school, rather than the best interest of the pupil.

Emma Ing regional director for Ofsted said cracking down on exclusion and off-rolling are key features in the new inspection framework.

She said: "Headteachers have a really difficult job weighing up the needs of an individual child against the needs of a whole group.

"Now, exclusion is one option available to a head teacher but there is a range of other interventions that perhaps they could try and should try before they get to the exclusion point.

Emma Ingregional director for Ofsted said exclusions are key feature in the new inspection framework from Ofsted

Emma Ingregional director for Ofsted said exclusions are key feature in the new inspection framework from Ofsted

"I’m not saying that exclusion is always wrong but you do want to make sure you’ve done everything you can before you get to that point. And, if you’re just doing it because it makes your exam results look better that’s totally wrong."

The rate of permanent exclusions has been increasing in Northamptonshire, rising from 95 in 2015/16 to 150 in 2017/18 and latest figures show fixed-term exclusions have also increased from 4,651 in 2015/16 to 5,525 in 2016/17.

The new idea of the exclusion provision, which could take the form of spare classrooms at Northampton International Academy for up to 40 places, would be an informal agreement between teachers.

It already has backing from four Northampton schools and it comes as 29 children are being temporarily excluded every school day in this county.

This setting will be for primary and secondary school pupils to attend and will be an interim measure between mainstream education and permanent exclusion, which avoids sending the children home.

If it is successful, it is hoped that the initiative could be rolled out countywide.

Tim Marston, headteacher at Northampton International Academy, is taking the lead in the initiative.

He said he does not take the decision to exclude pupils lightly.

"It’s the most serious decision that you take," he said. "And in the intervening period between making that decision and any sort of an appeal you go through the governing body and then a further check and balance and you look for any possible alternative to holding up the permanent exclusion.

"I think if you look at the figures and the links between employment and positive life chances, the greater that we can reduce those exclusions then the far better off that those young people are going to be.

"There are too many people on the fringes on what is good education at the moment."