TEACH THEM A LESSON; [Pounds Sterling]3 Million Plan to Cut Expulsions at Schools

Article excerpt

Byline: HAMISH MACDONELL

SCOTTISH Secretary Donald Dewar has launched a [pounds sterling]3 million plan to cut the number of children expelled from school.

The Government wants to reduce the number of expulsions and suspensions and has allocated the funds to develop halfway houses in schools for expelled pupils.

But teaching unions have attacked the initiative, claiming it would create nothing more than ineffective 'sin bins'.

Experts expect many authorities to build on projects in Edinburgh's most deprived areas where halfway houses have been set up to give disruptive pupils somewhere to go.

The Scottish Secretary told a special one-day conference of teachers and education experts in Edinburgh that children who were excluded from school often ended up in a cycle of deprivation which locked them out of mainstream society as well.

Exclusion rates - the number of pupils expelled or suspended as well as the number playing truant - are running at 5 per cent in Scottish primary schools and 12 per cent in secondary schools.

This is the equivalent of every primary school pupil missing two weeks and every secondary school pupil missing four weeks of a 38-week academic year.

Mr Dewar wants schools and education authorities to get together and set targets for exclusions. The targets for secondary schools will be set by the start of June.

The Scottish Secretary said: 'In an ideal world, of course, no children would be excluded from school.

'But we do not live in an ideal world, and there will be occasions when it is necessary to use the last resort of excluding a child from school - when all alternatives have failed, as a deterrent to misbehaviour and a safeguard for other pupils and staff.' But Mr Dewar said the 'last resort' was used more in some local authorities than in others and he wanted to see more consistency.

He said he wanted to make exclusion 'the extreme exception' and wanted to cut it down to the absolute minimum.

'We will comprehensively fail in our attempt to tackle social exclusion if we do not concentrate on giving vulnerable young people full opportunities to reach their potential,' he said. …