School Exclusions

– in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 28th October 2004.

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Photo of John Randall John Randall Opposition Whip (Commons) 2:30 pm, 28th October 2004

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, if he will make a statement on links between school exclusions and antisocial behaviour.

Photo of Margaret Hodge Margaret Hodge Minister of State (Education and Skills) (Children)

Excluded pupils are more likely to engage in antisocial behaviour and become involved in crime. Many will be offending prior to the exclusion, others will take up offending afterwards, and there is no clear understanding of the direction of causality. We are investing in early intervention to tackle the behaviour that leads to exclusion through a range of measures: for example, learning support units and learning mentors. Also, we have extended the scope of parenting orders and contracts to cover cases of exclusion following serious misbehaviour.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Opposition Whip (Commons)

I thank the Minister for that reply. It is probably self-apparent that once those who are causing problems in schools are excluded they are very likely to cause the same sort of problems outside the school gates. It is obviously a problem. What discussions has the Minister had with other Departments on the matter? Presumably, once students are excluded they are not receiving a full-time education and are out in the community. What discussions have been had with the Home Office to try to get a grip on the problem?

Photo of Margaret Hodge Margaret Hodge Minister of State (Education and Skills) (Children)

Every child of statutory school age will be receiving education, whether in school, in a pupil referral unit or by some other means at home. One of the issues that we have been pursuing with local education authorities is ensuring that they give every pupil, excluded or not, an education, as is their entitlement. However, it is a difficult issue, because having disruptive pupils in the classroom is of no benefit to the other children who are there to learn. We have to balance the interests of the rest of the cohort in the classroom with those of the individual child.

The "Every Child Matters" agenda and the reforms that we are trying to instil in children's services are about bringing together all the agencies that work with troubled and troublesome youngsters to try to ensure that we prevent them from getting to the point of exclusion or, if we do exclude them, that they get the proper co-ordinated support from all services, so that we minimise the risk and harm that they could cause and maximise their potential and the contribution that they could make to the community.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Opposition Whip (Commons)

Has any research been carried out into whether those who have been excluded try to influence people still in school to get them involved in trouble?

Photo of Margaret Hodge Margaret Hodge Minister of State (Education and Skills) (Children)

I do not have any research to hand, but I share the hon. Gentleman's view that troublesome teenagers probably influence their peer group, whether they are in school, on the council estates or in their communities. Wherever they are located, peer groups have a strong influence. How do we tackle that, particularly with teenagers? In working towards the youth Green Paper, which we hope to publish in the not too distant future, we are trying to find positive activities in which to engage young people. It is important to give them something to do and somewhere to go.

Trying to spot the difficulties early so that intervention can be made early is also important, as is getting the agencies to work together and with the families to ensure that early intervention. The work that we are doing to support parents, as well as promoting the interests of children and young people, should go some way to lessening the problem.

Photo of Mr Matthew Green Mr Matthew Green Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions, Young People, Non-Departmental & Cross-Departmental Responsibilities

I am sure that the Minister will be aware that one of the best ways of reducing exclusion is reducing levels of unacceptable behaviour in classrooms. One of the most successful ways that that has happened in recent years has been through the building of a school designed by Sir Norman Foster. As I understand it, that school has seen a dramatic reduction in the number of pupils playing truant and in the bad behaviour of those in school. To what extent is the DFES investigating how good design of schools can play a part in reducing unacceptable behaviour levels?

Photo of Margaret Hodge Margaret Hodge Minister of State (Education and Skills) (Children)

Design is a factor, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman supports the enormous capital investment that we have embarked on, particularly for secondary schools. We have said that within 10 years every secondary school will either be renewed or rebuilt so that it is fit for purpose in the new century. I also hope that he supports the investment that we are making directly in behaviour and attendance. We are spending nearly £500 million in the 2003 to 2006 spending review period on promoting good behaviour in the classroom and dealing with both authorised and non-authorised non-attendance, which is another factor that can cause problems in the community such as antisocial behaviour.

I would also point out to the hon. Gentleman that as well as buildings we must consider the quality of the staff and the support given to children and young people from teachers and other school support staff. Our massive investment in recruiting and keeping teachers, and offering them appropriate professional development, is important.