Agenda item

Agenda item

BEHAVIOUR MANAGEMENT IN DENBIGHSHIRE SCHOOLS

To consider a report by the Principal Education Manager (copy enclosed) which seeks the Committee to review the county’s trends in school exclusions to determine if the use of short term exclusions has an adverse effect on pupils’ educational attainment.

 

10:45 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.

Minutes:

Introducing the report and appendices (previously circulated)  which summarised the trends in permanent and fixed term exclusions the Lead Member for Education, Children and Young People advised that the report had been requested by a member who had concerns about the number of fixed term exclusions of five days or less within the county’s schools.  During his introduction the Lead Member advised that whilst Estyn, as part of its recent inspection of the Council’s Education Service, had examined this particular area it had not made any specific recommendations in relation to school exclusion rates or policy.  The Lead Member emphasised that the Council had an ambition and a policy to keep children in school and to support them through their education.  Permanent exclusion from school was the very last resort, when all other interventions had failed, short –term exclusions were therefore high in a bid to address problems escalating to a need to permanently exclude a pupil, as permanent exclusion was likely to result in the pupil becoming ‘not in education, employment or training’ (NEET), disengaged, under or not achieving and therefore impacting on his/her eventual life outcomes.

 

The Head of Education and Children’s Services advised that:

  • the rate of fixed-term exclusions was higher in secondary schools than in primary schools;
  • fixed-term exclusion rates were higher in primary schools located in areas of deprivation in comparison to other primary schools;
  • the County’s Education Service made sure that all exclusions, both fixed term and permanent, complied with the relevant legislation.  Consequently schools were not permitted to send pupils home to ‘cool off’ etc. as they had a statutory duty of care towards the child and to ensure his/her safety;
  • officers were confident that the figures reported were accurate; correct data was key to enable the Service to provide the appropriate intervention and support needed;
  • the challenge for the Service lay with the complex behaviours displayed by some pupils in certain schools, generally linked to adverse childhood experiences (ACE).  There was therefore a need to examine each individual child’s background in order to understand what triggered their behaviour; and
  • in a number of cases a short-term exclusion period of one to two days was sufficient reprimand without recourse to further expulsion

 

Responding to members’ questions the Lead Member, Head of Education and Children’s Services and Senior School Improvement Officer – Secondary:

  • advised that all pupils were tracked throughout their education journey in Denbighshire, be they in mainstream or special schools;
  • pupils identified with special educational needs (SEN), additional learning needs (ALN) etc. would be provided with appropriate support to meet their needs.  If their behaviour became more challenging the Education Department would work with the schools to support them, including through transition from primary to secondary education and further education if required.  Officers outlined the process followed in devising appropriate intervention to meet an individual pupil’s needs;
  • advised that one of the reasons behind the increase in the number of fixed-term exclusions of 5 days or less during 2015/16 was that one high school had a change of headteacher, with the new headteacher being less tolerant of bad behaviour;
  • confirmed that the County had not changed its School Behaviour Management Policy in recent years.  As a service the Education Service’s responsibility was to ensure that individual schools were following the correct procedures and implementing appropriate intervention measures to support the pupil concerned to achieve their potential whilst avoiding disruption to other pupils’ education;
  • acknowledged that whilst the number of fixed-term exclusions of 5 days or less in the county did seem consistently higher than other North Wales local authorities they were satisfied that the measure was being used effectively for the purpose of ensuring that appropriate intervention measures were put in place to avoid further exclusion and reduce the likelihood of the pupil becoming NEET.  Work was underway at present with schools in a bid to reduce the number of fixed-term exclusions through the provision of behavioural support services on site at the schools.  A list of alternative solutions to fixed-term exclusions was included in the report.  Denbighshire had a good track record of managing learners who were at risk of becoming disengaged, and was keen for its reputation in this area to be further enhanced;
  • advised that a significant amount of training had been undertaken with school-based staff on identifying special and additional needs in pupils e.g. autism and dyslexia.  Ysgol Plas Brondyffryn offered an outreach service to mainstream schools with respect of supporting pupils with autism.  The Service promoted to schools the opportunity for them to undertake the Autism Accreditation programme, at the conclusion of which they could be awarded the Autism kite mark which would show that they were autism-friendly establishments.  The Service also liaised with specialist support groups in relation to pupils’ needs, this work was key to understating the needs of people supporting pupils with autism.  In addition, the Service worked closely with the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).  However it would not wait for an official diagnosis before putting support and intervention measures in place for pupils displaying mental health, autism or dyslexia behaviour.  Interventions would be put in place at the earliest opportunity and could be reviewed following receipt of the CAMHS diagnosis;
  • informed members that the Service also endeavoured to reduce class sizes in schools with a view to creating a positive and supporting learning environment;
  • acknowledged that whilst an increase from circa 30 to 70 pupils per 1,000 pupils in the number of fixed-term exclusions of 5 days or less within a period of 3 to 4 years seemed extremely high, it was important to understand that in recent years the county’s schools had been dealing with some very complex behavioural problems which required some considerable amount of intervention.  There was always an underlying reason which led to pupils displaying challenging behaviour in school;
  • advised that the bringing together of the Education Service and Children’s Services under a single head of service had helped schools and Education Service staff  to access specialist support services earlier and to ensure that sufficient support was available for individual pupils both at school and at home; and
  • offered members to visit both the Ysgol Plas Cefndy, the Pupil Referral Unit (PRU), n Rhyl and the Stepping Stones facility in Ruthin to see the work undertaken there

 

At the conclusion of the discussion the Committee acknowledged that the county’s approach towards reporting school exclusion data was accurate and honest.  Members agreed that exclusion should be considered as a last resort, when all else failed.  The provision of restorative interventions with a view to improving behaviour and engagement and avoiding slippages was key in order to avoid further costs to society in future.  Members:

 

Resolved: subject to the above observations –

(i)   to support the Council’s approach towards behaviour management in the county’s schools;

(ii)  to request that an ‘Information Report’ be prepared and circulated to members following the publication of the 2016-17 data on school exclusions in Wales, detailing the school exclusion figures for Denbighshire, including details for each individual school in the county and the reasons why pupils had been excluded; and

(iii)that a visit be arranged for Committee members and co-opted members to Ysgol Plas Cefndy and the Stepping Stones facility

 

 

Prior to leaving the meeting the Head of Education and Children’s Services briefed members on the outcomes of a meeting she had attended with representatives from Grŵp Llandrillo Menai on their proposed future arrangements for students following the Group’s recent announcement that their facility at Denbigh would close. 

 

Members were advised that:

  • the Council had been given assurances that the courses currently provided at Denbigh College would be available to current students at the Group’s other sites;
  • the majority of students currently attending the Denbigh site lived in the north of the county;
  • the Group was currently exploring options for re-structuring its provision in a bid to save on costs, Denbigh College had the fewest number of students of all its sites.  The number of courses available there were limited, this coupled with the number of students accessing the courses being low made its future unviable;
  • the Group planned to deliver some courses in Denbigh in future, these would be delivered at ‘Yr Hwb
  • the Group was continuing work with a view to securing the future of the building; and
  • the Council would continue to work with the Group in relation to post 16 transition provision and opportunities to fill the deficit provision for Ysgol Plas Brondyffryn students following the College’s closure.

 

The Head of Service confirmed that, in term of mainstream provision, the Council was satisfied with the provision the Group was proposing to provide in future.

 

 

Supporting documents:

 

 
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