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Friday, 4 May, 2001, 17:05 GMT 18:05 UK
Pupil exclusion targets dropped
Targets for reducing the number of pupils permanently excluded from schools in England are to be dropped.

The revelation came as provisional official figures, published on Friday, showed exclusions fell from 10,400 in 1998/9 to an estimated 8,600 in 1999/2000.

I am satisfied that the level we have reached is sustainable

David Blunkett
The government has now all but achieved its goal to reduce exclusions by a third - to 8,400 - by September 2002.

The Education Secretary, David Blunkett, said: "I am satisfied that the level we have reached is sustainable and I therefore do not intend to set fresh targets for reducing permanent exclusions further.

"The priority now is to ensure that excluded pupils receive a full-time education and that schools can manage disruptive children outside the classroom."

Tackling poor behaviour

The priority was now to tackle the underlying problems of poor behaviour, Mr Blunkett said.

There was "greatly improved" provision within schools - more had "learning support units" on-site where difficult youngsters could be taught without them having to be suspended or permanently thrown out, he said.

Local education authorities would be encouraged to drive ahead with providing a suitable, full-time education for all excluded pupils from September 2002 at the latest, he added.

And the government had, Mr Blunkett said, clarified the exclusion guidance for schools, emphasising that heads could expel pupils who were very disruptive or violent.

'Damaging targets'

But the shadow education secretary, Theresa May, said the figures proved the government had put the rights of the unruly minority ahead of the mainstream majority.

"David Blunkett boasts that, now schools have met his damaging targets, he does not intend to order them to cut expulsions further.

"He should have thought of that before he had done incalculable harm to thousands of children's education," she said.

A Conservative government would empower heads to discipline as they saw fit, she added.

'Difficult year'

General secretary of the Secondary Heads Association (Sha), John Dunford, said figures related to a year when the government was telling governing bodies and appeals panels to return disruptive pupils to the classroom.

John Dunford
Mr Dunford says the figures relate to a time when heads' decisions were overruled
"It was a very difficult year for head teachers whose sensible judgements were too often overruled.

"I take no pleasure in having achieved the government's target for reducing exclusions, for the target should not have been set until adequate alternative provision was in place," Mr Dunford said.

But he welcomed the fact that no further target was to be set and that the government was now funding alternative provision, both within schools and in separate units.

The move was also approved by Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers.

'Conjured out of thin air'

"The targets were always conjured out of thin air and exclusions will go up and down as is necessary, not because of government targets.

"I'm delighted that the Secretary of State has seen the wisdom of not plucking figures out of the air and imposing them on schools," Mr McAvoy said.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said cases should always be judged on their merits.

"Not according to whether they meet artificial targets set by dogmatic politicians sitting in Westminster far removed from the realities of everyday life in schools," he said.

See also:

19 Apr 01 | Education
Pupils to lose right of appeal - May
17 Apr 01 | Education
End exclusion targets say teachers
15 Apr 01 | Education
Head's 'nightmare journey'
14 Feb 00 | Education
Dealing with excluded pupils
01 Jun 00 | Unions 2000
Action on exclusion of violent pupils
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