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‘Children should not be treated as numbers’ - charging schools for expelling pupils not way to tackle Norfolk’s soaring expulsion rates, says principal of City Academy, Norwich

PUBLISHED: 16:27 19 May 2017 | UPDATED: 19:44 23 May 2017

City Academy principal Mary Sparrow. Photo: Steve Adams

City Academy principal Mary Sparrow. Photo: Steve Adams

Copyright Archant Norfolk 2015

Charging schools which expel students could worsen an alarming rise in expulsion rates in Norfolk and have a damaging impact on children’s welfare, a principal has warned.

Michael Bateman, head of SEN at Norfolk County CouncilMichael Bateman, head of SEN at Norfolk County Council

Mary Sparrow, from City Academy, Norwich said under pressure school leaders could be less inclined to invest money in measures to prevent students being expelled if they felt they could then face thousands of pounds in charges.

Speaking at a meeting of Norfolk County Council’s Schools Forum on Friday, she said “children should not be treated as numbers”.

Forum members were discussing the county council’s proposal to charge schools for permanently excluding pupils, an idea which the council hopes could tackle the county’s soaring expulsion rates and address a projected £8.5m overspend in special needs education.

The number of permanent exclusions around Norfolk leapt from 170 in 2013/14 to 195 in 2014/15 and 296 in 2015/16 with 137 children excluded in the autumn term alone this year.

Norfolk permanent exclusion numbers. Graphic: ARCHANT.Norfolk permanent exclusion numbers. Graphic: ARCHANT.

MORE: Almost 100 children waiting for an education as school expulsions in Norfolk soar

It has meant that some 100 children in Norfolk are currently missing out on any education and is considered to be, in part, responsible for the deficit.

It is felt the charges would act as a deterrent and raise some of the money needed.

Mrs Sparrow said: “If we fine schools for expelling students it could perversely mean there is less they are able to do before it gets to this stage.

“Before permanently excluding a child we will invest between £7,500 to £15,000 in measures to prevent exclusion.

“We are already making some very tough decisions and if there is the threat of this being topped up to £20,000 head teachers may stop putting that money in at the start.

MORE: What is driving the rapid rise in Norfolk school exclusions?

“If a school clearly hasn’t done enough to prevent the expulsion, then fining them is fair enough.

“It is not black and white - there are many grey areas. Children should not be treated as numbers.”

Michael Bateman, head of Norfolk County Council’s Education Inclusion Service, said: “If there are cases where it is clear that schools are doing all they can but have no other choice, we can use discretion.”

Money raised from charges would be reinvested into reintegrating pupils.

Schools will be consulted on the proposals this summer.

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