The social and emotional needs of pupils in Lancashire’s schools must be identified earlier to reduce the risk of them being excluded if their problems escalate.
That was the message from Lancashire County Council’s director of education who said that the number of exclusions in the county was “generally too high” – but has been falling in recent years.
Sarah Callaghan told a meeting of the authority’s education scrutiny committee that spotting the early signs of a young person in need of support was “critical”.
“Children obviously become more frustrated with trying to manage needs [that] have not been identified – and that does manifest itself in behaviour which ends up causing issues for the school, staff and peers,” Ms Callaghan said.
During 2017/18, the latest year for which figures are available, 324 pupils were permanently excluded from Lancashire’s schools – the vast majority, 279, from secondary schools. That is an exclusion rate of 0.19 per cent, higher than the England average of 0.10 per cent.
However, the figures are a decrease from the previous year when there were 354 exclusions.
Committee member and school governor, County Coun Anne Cheetham, said that the physical challenges faced by school staff were often underestimated.
“From time to time, incidents have arisen because staff have not been able to contain the situation and have had to wait for other support.
“These incidents are being witnessed by the rest of the peer group and that can cause disruption and distress,” County Coun Cheetham said, before going on to suggest that boxing clubs might be a way of reducing tensions.
“[They] could get rid of some of that energy and spirit, instead of focusing it on a member of staff.”
Ms Callaghan agreed that such a move might be “a good outlet for frustration” – but not necessarily a solution for the underlying issues.
“You would hope to be able to identify the needs that are driving that behaviour,” she said.
“I think you would really want to stop that frustration growing by identifying and meeting [their] needs,” she said.
The meeting heard that the number of exclusions from special schools in Lancashire was also falling – from five in 2015/16, to two in 2017/18.
A spokesperson for Lancashire County Council said: "The permanent exclusion rate for pupils with SEND has decreased over the last three years from 0.9 percent to 0.7 percent and fixed-term exclusions have also fallen from 13.3 percent to 12.75 percent.
"Tackling exclusions, and keeping pupils in school, is one of our key priorities and we are confident that our focus on continuing to improve our processes is ensuring that they are more robust.
"However, we are aware that some children and young people appear more frequently in the data and we will continue to scrutinise this so that we are able to carry on providing even more targeted support to our schools in the future."