Exclusions from Borders schools down by more than a fifth in two years

Councillor Clair Ramage at Hawick High School.
Councillor Clair Ramage at Hawick High School.

The number of pupils being excluded by schools in the Borders schools has fallen by more than a fifth in two years, according to the latest figures.

There were 293 exclusions here in 2016, but that figure fell to 228 last year, down 22%.

Hawick High School, in particular, has seen a marked drop of almost a half in exclusions, falling from 93 in 2016 to 54 last year.

Berwickshire High School, on the other hand, has seen a dramatic increase, shooting up from just two exclusions in 2016 to 54 in 2018.

The number of exclusions was also up at Kelso High, from three to 13, and Peebles High, from 32 to 35, but at Earlston, Eyemouth, Galashiels, Jedburgh and Selkirk’s high schools it was down – from eight to four, eight to four, 36 to 20, 10 to none and 36 to 15.

Those figures were released in response to a request from Hawick and Denholm councillor Clair Ramage.

Ms Ramage, formerly a teacher at Hawick High, said she has been hearing reports of growing behavioural issues at the region’s schools and wanted to establish their veracity.

At Scottish Borders Council’s latest full meeting, held in Kelso last week, the ruling administration’s member for children and young people, East Berwickshire councillor Carol Hamilton, sought to allay her concerns, telling her: “The figures indicate the number of exclusion incidents, which can range from a single-day exclusion to a maximum of a three-day exclusion, with the option to extend with the approval of the chief officer.

“In line with revised guidance from the Scottish Government, headteachers across our schools are seeking to promote a more positive, inclusive education for all children and young people.

“This vision has been developed and shared as part of Scottish Borders Council’s inclusion strategy.

“It should be noted that the overall number of exclusions continues to reduce, which is in line with strategy.

“However, when there are specific incidents that dictate that exclusion is the only appropriate action, then this will continue to be used.”

Responding, Ms Ramage said: “I asked the question about exclusions across the Borders because I am getting complaints about the behaviour of pupils from across our region.

“After 40 years of teaching, I only left full-time education six years ago but continue to teach part-time, but, since then, there seems to be a real decline in classroom and playground behaviour.

“We need to get this right, not only for the minority of pupils that are showing signs of antisocial behaviour but also for the pupils keen to work and not be disrupted and are actually scared of this unruly element.

“One professional visiting a school talked about a gang mentality within a secondary school.

“Whilst seeking the pupil’s view is commendable, it needs to be remembered that the adults involved are responsible for the health, wellbeing and educational experience of all in their charge. This applies also to the health and wellbeing of staff.

“Pupils require a line to be drawn in the sand, thus far and no further. By failing to do this, managers are doing children a huge disservice.

“Decisions taken may not be popular, but, as with parents at home, sometimes the adult simply has to say enough.”