“We have children who are dealing drugs on behalf of organised gangs from major cities across the country. That’s something we should be paying attention to.”
That was what Liberal Democrat Councillor Ian Barfield told members of the North East Lincolnshire Council Full Council meeting during a motion about high exclusion rates.
Councillor Barfield wanted the authority to call on local schools to use the punishment, ‘only as a last resort’ following what he called an ‘unnecessarily high’ rate in the borough.
An investigation by The Guardian, revealed that Ormiston Maritime Academy and John Whitgift Academy, were excluding more than 20% of the pupils.
It said the national average of pupils receiving at least one suspension in the last academic year was 4.6%.
Councillor Barfield said the problems of missing school are ‘self-evident’ adding that the ‘consequences rebound across the community’.
He said in his ward, he often saw 12-14 year olds in cars exchanging packets and cycling off on BMXs.
He said those most likely to be excluded are ‘the most under privileged and most vulnerable of our society’,
He added that the problem was just ‘the thin edge of the wedge’, with 41 permanent exclusions last year, an increase in home education from 50 to 200 children over the past few years and 128 children being involved in ‘managed moves’ – those made at the request of schools to avoid expulsion.
He said he wanted the authority to say to schools: “We want you to educate all the children in our borough, not just the ones you choose to educate.”
Fellow Liberal Democrat Councillor Stephen Beasant called the situation ‘absolutely appalling’, and said Government needed to ‘break the spiral’.
“Excluding one child is too many, but 25 per cent is deplorable,” he said.
Conservative Councillor Ian Lindley, who chairs the Children and Young People Scrutiny Panel, said the item was due to appear before them. He said the panel was aware of the issue and would be looking into it.
Councillor John Fenty called for a multi-agency approach to the problem to ‘explore the bigger picture’ including what’s happening at home.