CITY experts have called for a “blanket ban” on pupil expulsions from school after new data revealed the measure leaves troubled youngsters at much higher risk of landing in jail.
A long-term study of around 4000 children who started secondary school in the Capital in 1998 has revealed those excluded by the age of 12 were four times more likely to be sent to prison by the time they were 24.
Edinburgh University professors Lesley McAra and Susan McVie, who led the research, found a significant link between expulsion and youngsters quitting school early before going on to commit crime.
The analysis has led the researchers to call for exclusions to be scrapped – a demand which has been backed by Tam Baillie, Scotland’s commissioner for children and young people.
Prof McVie, an expert in quantitative criminology, said: “Our research supports a widespread ban on the use of school exclusions for primary children and we should be moving towards a similar ban at secondary level – exclusions serve no positive purpose.”
The call comes as national figures show formal exclusions have fallen significantly, with the number recorded across Scotland halving from 44,794 in 2006-7 to 21,955 in 2012-13. In Edinburgh, the most recent data indicates around 300 pupils were excluded from city primaries in 2012-13, with a further 940 banned from high schools.
“The long-term outcomes for excluded children are very negative indeed,” said Prof McVie. “I think there needs to be some capacity to remove a child from the classroom but I do not agree there absolutely needs to be a requirement for children to leave a school.”
The call has drawn criticism from teaching leaders in the Capital, who said that, unless a viable alternative could be found to deal with troublesome students, exclusion was needed as a last resort.
Susan Dick, a chemistry teacher at St Thomas of Aquin’s High, and Edinburgh district secretary for the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, said expulsion should be an option when dealing with extreme misbehaviour.
She said: “I don’t think any teacher likes seeing kids excluded but it’s a way of distancing the person – allowing a bit of time and space for people to think about what’s happened. Sometimes it’s difficult to get parents into school if there are problems. Exclusion is, unfortunately, one of the last resorts and unless they find another method to replace it, it shouldn’t be banned.”
Ms Dick said she was aware of pupils being excluded for a variety of reasons, including vandalising or flooding school property, fighting and setting off fire alarms.
And she warned against imposing a ban on expulsions without first putting in place credible alternative measures, such as posting problem pupils to another school.
“If people are in jail, it’s not directly because of being excluded – it’s probably the result of wider background issues. In many cases, we’re trying to compensate for a poor background at home.
“If there’s nothing else in place then I think a lot of teachers would be very concerned if exclusion was banned completely,” she said.
Scottish Government officials said they believed their drive to reduce school expulsions was working and indicated they had “no intention” of scrapping the measure.