Comment: Hard-working pupils must not suffer

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THE pattern will be familiar to many teachers. A disruptive pupil whose behaviour gets worse is first suspended, then excluded from school, often for minor offences.

They are sent home with little educational support or counselling only to return to another school with a reputation as a 
troublemaker.

They are then hopelessly behind in their schoolwork and even more alienated than when they left.

Their schoolwork suffers further and they again land themselves in trouble, perhaps unable to understand or articulate their own frustrations. These pupils ultimately fail their exams, drop out and end up in trouble with the law.

A recent long-term study of around 4000 children who started secondary school in Edinburgh in 1998 confirmed some of these patterns. It revealed those excluded by the age of 12 were four times more likely to be sent to prison by the time they were 24.

The number of exclusions is falling nationally and in Lothian. 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.

However, it is clear we need to do more to help troubled youngsters, rather than sending them into a spiral of bad behaviour, violence and prison.

Today, we report on how Craigroyston High has become one of the first schools in Scotland to scrap exclusions. Instead, senior teachers intend to boost “personalised support” for pupils and their families and get them back into the classroom as quickly as possible.

Of course, any change must ensure that pupils who are engaged and learning are not held back by a decision not to exclude a troublesome student.

A solid network of support for pupils is necessary to make this work. This will be time consuming and expensive. And in all cases, it won’t necessarily succeed.

But we need to try.