Review after primary school exclusions rise

SCOTTISH Borders Council is to revise its policy on primary school exclusions, after a four-year high in pupil suspensions was recorded in 2011.

The local authority admits there is significant work to do after 73 primary children were put out of school in 2010/11, compared with 54 in 2009/10 and 60 in 2008/09.

The overall number of suspensions also rose, to 170, well above the figures for 2009/10 (133) and 2008/09 (125), according to SBC’s education standards and quality report.

It means the number of pupils per 1,000 being thrown out of primary schools for misbehaviour in the Borders is 21, compared with the national average of 11.

SBC’s director of education Glenn Rodger said: “We are revising the policy and we will bring that policy back to members for approval after the council elections.”

The report went on: “We have built up good relationships with Integrated Children’s Services and other partner agencies to develop positive, proactive programmes to reduce exclusions but recognise there is still significant work to do, particularly around some of our primary schools.”

However, exclusion numbers in secondary schools provided brighter news.

A total of 226 students were suspended in 2010/11, compared with 255 in 2007/08, 281 in 2008/09 and 254 in 2009/10.

That means 55 Borders secondary children per 1,000 were excluded last year – the Scottish average is 72.

Other positive results showed Standard Grade and Higher performances improved, while of six schools inspected during the term, none of them received a weak or unsatisfactory rating in five categories.

However, it was noted by councillor Carolyn Riddell-Carre – an education executive member – that not one of the six schools were awarded an excellent grade.

Mr Rodger said: “The message nationally about HMIE is that it is very, very rare for an excellent rating, which is highlighted across Scotland.

“I always aspire to excellence but I am not too concerned at this stage that the six schools have not hit the excellence button.”

Reviewing 2010/11 in the report, Mr Rodger wrote: “This last year has been a particularly demanding one for our schools in that there has been a strong focus on developing curriculum for excellence while at the same time ensuring that those pupils sitting exams under the old system achieve their full potential.

“I am particularly pleased therefore to report that our schools have at least maintained and in some cases surpassed existing high standards in nearly all areas.”

He added that a slight dip in fourth year performance would be scrutinised so that it does not become a trend.

The director stressed: “This will be done school by school, subject by subject, with school improvement plans being developed where necessary to deliver improvement.”