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School pupil exclusions rise

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By Fiona Reid
Front

AN increase in pupils being excluded from schools in the Nithsdale area could be linked to the pressures of home learning during the pandemic, says the region’s education boss.

Jim Brown, Dumfries and Galloway Council’s chief education officer, this week described home learning when schools were shut as “disproportionately challenging” for some youngsters.

He suspects this could have led to an unexpected increase in exclusion rates across Nithsdale when pupils returned to school.

A report tabled at the Nithsdale Area Committee on Wednesday showed that the rate of pupils being excluded from school for bad behaviour rose last year from 5.25 per 1000 pupils to 8.65 per 1000.

Meanwhile, the rate for LAC (looked after child) exclusions has risen in Nithsdale to 61.54 per 1000 pupils, significantly above the target measure of 40 per 1000 pupils.

Committee chairman, Councillor Jim Dempster, said: “Is this due to issues related to Covid-19, or is it one of these things that vary at any stage dependent on local and national circumstances?”

Jim Brown replied: “I think both. It’s difficult to make causal statements around young people, and we’ve got around 20,000 young people.

“Things can happen we’re not necessarily aware of, and that can then produce small spikes.

“What is relevant is looking at the long term. Secondary exclusions have roughly halved over ten years and primary exclusions are roughly a third.”

He said the exclusions are a “supported process, not a punishment” to help young people positively change their behaviours.

Mr Brown went on: “I would suggest that the impact of longer periods of home learning have been very, very challenging – and disproportionately challenging – on some young people.

“That has possibly meant – and we’re always talking possibly because we don’t know the facts around this – but it would be reasonable to suggest that for some young people prolonged periods away from our schools has not supported them in their approaches to appropriate behaviours.”

The report also confirmed that school attendance rates in the Nithsdale area have been affected by the pandemic.

Attendance overall is down 2.2 per cent on the same period the previous year and is 2.6 per cent below target value which is the Dumfries and Galloway average of 93.7 per cent.

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