'We're doing everything we can to bring down thousands of school exclusions in Sheffield', says council boss

Jayne Ludlam.
Jayne Ludlam.

A council boss has stressed everything possible is being done to ensure Sheffield's children remain in school - after figures revealed more than 6000 pupils have been excluded in a single year.

Jayne Ludlam, the council's executive director for children, young people and families, accepted the figure was too high, but stressed her team is doing everything they can to tackle the problem and keep the city's youngsters on the right path.

School exclusions.

School exclusions.

She spoke out after council figures showed 6, 709 school children were excluded for a set period of time between 2015 and 2016 before being allowed back into lessons. In addition, 100 pupils were excluded permanently for such things as assault, bullying, drink and drugs.

Ms Ludlam said: "We know that the exclusion rates in Sheffield are too high and this is something we’ve been working on with schools for some time, and are continuing to work on.

"This has included work with our primary schools to create a primary inclusion panel, where primary schools can refer pupils at risk of exclusion, as well as work with secondary schools to share best practice.

"Over the past year we have been working in partnership with our schools, Learn Sheffield and the NHS on a number of new programmes to support children and young people’s emotional wellbeing."

Of 5, 688 secondary school pupils excluded temporarily, 993 had assaulted other children, 121 attacked adults, 31 were accused of bullying and 71 of being racially abusive.

In addition, of 1, 021 primary school pupils excluded for a set period of time, 236 were for sent home for assaulting fellow pupils and 216 attacked adults.

The council has now effectively launched anger management sessions for children.

Ms Ludlam said secondary school headteachers have been sharing best practice, which includes "Teaching children and young people how to manage their feelings including anger."

Alarmingly, there were also 34 pupils accused of sexual misconduct and 124 were caught with alcohol or drugs.

But Ms Ludlam said pupils affected are offered help through community youth teams in which "locally based teams who include youth workers, police officers, councillors and health professionals provide support to the child and the family."

She highlighted the Sheffield’s Future in Mind programme as an example of how the authorities are trying to support the mental health of pupils.

Said Ms Ludlam: "We now provide outreach support from two of our special schools, where specialist teachers assess pupils at school and recommend a strategy for support, as well as encouraging the use of our primary inclusion panel.

"Primary schools can refer pupils to a panel of head teachers, educational psychologists and inclusion experts who work with the school to create an action plan for the child.

"This action plans includes plans to provide additional time for the child with teaching staff and most significantly has led to a reduction in our primary exclusion rates."

Her comments come as councillors approved plans earlier this week to look at further ways of bringing down the exclusion rate.

This includes creating six 'engagement hubs' to help troubled pupils to reintegrate into mainstream schooling. The plans will undergo a consultation period with pupils, parents and staff before being implemented.

Ms Ludlam said the council's 'track record of identifying and tackling problems early' means the tide is turning and the programmes are 'showing positive signs of reducing our exclusion numbers.'

She said: "In terms of permanent exclusions very few children go on to be excluded again. There will only be one or two children each year in Sheffield who are excluded more than once.

"Schools do everything they can to ensure all children are in education every day and no decision to exclude a child is ever made lightly."