School scraps exclusions for problem pupils

Craigroyston High aims to keep difficult pupils on the straight and narrow. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Craigroyston High aims to keep difficult pupils on the straight and narrow. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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A CITY high school is to scrap exclusions as a punishment for extreme misbehaviour by pupils.

Instead of expulsion, unruly youngsters at Craigroyston High face suspension from mainstream classes and referral to a dedicated school base.

The move is aimed at addressing problem behaviour within the security of the school environment, where pupils will have access to the support of specialist staff.

It is thought Craigroyston is one of the first schools in Scotland to implement an outright exclusions ban, which comes after Edinburgh University experts published research showing expelled children are more likely to quit class early, commit crime and land in jail.

Senior teachers at Craigroyston said the approach was about boosting “personalised support” for pupils and their families.

Karen Smart, deputy head, said: “By keeping a child experiencing difficulty in school what we are saying is, ‘we do like you but we do not like what you have done and will assist you in resolving this in school instead of sending you home’. We do not feel it is helpful to a child or their family for that child to be out of school.

“Our surveys tell us children feel safe in school and like being in school – and that mediation works best. Children actually like to resolve problems.”

Craigroyston’s policy comes amid a steady decline in exclusions from Edinburgh’s secondary schools, with numbers dropping from 1055 in 2010-11 to 791 last session.

Across Scotland, the figure halved from 44,794 in 2006-7 to 21,955 in 2012-13.

Ms Smart said strong partnership working would be key to the success of Craigroyston’s new policy.

“We have an integrated pupil support team including guidance staff, support for learning teachers, learning assistants, educational welfare officer, Skills Development Scotland worker, school councillor and police liaison officer, who work together and are based within the school,” she said.

“Our parents work in partnership with us and respond swiftly to meet with us when their child is experiencing difficulty in school. I will be consulting further with a range of partners, including parents, on this initiative.”

The approach has been backed by Tam Baillie, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People.

He said: “I welcome the announcement from Craigroyston. Scotland has made significant inroads to reduce exclusions and this is a positive move. However, it’s important for teachers to be supported in finding the most effective ways of keeping challenging children in mainstream education, while ensuring school is a positive learning experience for all pupils.”

City education bosses said they would make every effort to keep exclusions to a minimum.

A spokesman said: “Exclusions are only used as a last resort in dealing with disciplinary issues where other measures have not been successful.”