Essex’s traditional academy schools could expel more pupils to ‘serve their own ends’, one adviser has warned. Speaking at an Essex County Council meeting yesterday, Councilor Mike Mackrory claimed the academies are permanently excluding young people because they ‘don’t want them on their books anymore’.
The claim comes as the authority is set to replace a student guidance unit in Basildon with a brand new building to help accommodate the growing number of children being expelled from school. According to council data, permanent exclusions in the county rose from 50 to 161 between 2014 and 2020.
The council says the new building is needed to replace the Fairview Center’s current classrooms and facilities, which are no longer fit for purpose, and will have new classrooms and teaching facilities for 100 pupils.
Read more: Essex Pupil Reference Unit is torn down and rebuilt because many more children are being kicked out
A statement as part of the decision documents discussed on Tuesday, May 24 said the new building will provide students with greater opportunity to learn new skills and certifications, such as BTEC, giving them greater opportunities upon completion. of their studies.
But he also admitted he was concerned that some schools were knowingly transferring responsibilities to the county council. Cllr Mackrory, leader of the Lib Dem group at Essex County Council, said: ‘There is a suggestion in some quarters that since the rise of academies young people are definitely being excluded because these academies no longer want these young people in their books. .”
Tony Ball, Cabinet Member of Essex County Council for Excellence in Education, Lifelong Learning and Employability, said: ‘I understand and am very concerned about the increase in over the past few years in the number of students who have been referred to specialized units.
“It could be for a variety of reasons. I’ve heard the same thing anecdotally about schools excluding students at certain times to meet our own needs. We do everything we can to try to work with schools to avoid exclusions and provide them with support that this young person needs to stay in mainstream school.”
The council said the need had risen sharply – since 2015 there had been a significant year-on-year increase in pressure on the existing capacity of Essex Student Guidance Units, due to the increase permanent exclusions.
There were 50 permanent exclusions in 2014/15, which rose to 161 in 2019/20. At the same time, the number of children and young people requiring care because of their medical or mental health needs has increased.
Cllr Ball added: “Admittedly I would say that with the current trajectory 100 places is probably not going to be enough, but our aim is to reduce the number of young people who are referred to the pupil guidance units in time and therefore maybe not enough at the moment, and not in the very short term, but in the longer term, I really hope and believe that 100 places will meet the needs over time.
The council said a consistently high number of pupils with SEND cannot meet their needs in Essex schools and are then educated in independent schools or outside the county at a higher cost.
He says that by improving Fairview facilities he is able to give parents greater confidence that needs can be met locally and reduce appeals to the SEN tribunal for places in the independent sector.
Cllr Ball said: ‘The need for school places for children and young adults with social and emotional mental health needs is increasing. We are determined to meet this need even in these times of financial difficulty.
“Investment in the Fairview Center in Basildon, through funding from the council and Schools Forum, means Essex County Council can provide a great education to many more children and young adults with educational needs. additional and special in the county.
“Fairview is run by the South Essex Children’s Support Service, an Essex-maintained student guidance unit with a strong track record of improving outcomes for vulnerable children and young people.”