The Children’s Commissioner has said exclusion rates at Jersey’s school for children with emotional, mental and social needs are "too high", with 148 exclusions over the past three years.
Reacting to new information released following a request under the Freedom of Information Law by Express, Deborah McMillan said she was “concerned” about La Sente's exclusion rates and said that her office will be looking into the matter as part of a project looking at exclusion rates island-wide.
Exclusions, which involve children being suspended from school and asked to work from home for a period, are used by headteachers to "respond to incidents of serious misbehaviour" and are part of a behaviour policy requiring pupils to "show respect and consideration to other people and their property", according to the Government.
The latest data obtained by Express shows that over the past three years, there have been 148 fixed term exclusions or suspensions at across La Sente’s key stages over the past three years, and no permanent exclusions.
Pictured: 2019 saw exclusions go up by 44% from 2018, though 2020 saw a slight improvement.
La Sente is split into two school facilities, both servicing children who who may have serious mental health issues, trauma, emotional and behavioural difficulties, or find themselves in a vulnerable position that prevents them from being taught in mainstream education.
The two buildings are at the old D'Hautrée Lodge House for Key Stages 2 and 3, and at Five Oaks opposite Greenfields for Key Stage 4.
Express recently reported on strong concerns around the Key Stage 4 site, which were described as outdated and likened by one guardian of a child at the school to a "containment facility".
This year, there were 12 suspensions given across both schools’ overall student population of 24, though the Government would not specify the number of students who received the suspensions, given the small numbers involved.
Pictured: The Government says that Head Teachers are able to suspend a pupil for up to 15 days in any one term, and that any more must be agreed with the Education Department.
The Government defines suspensions as being “for a specified number of days", saying that "head teachers may suspend a pupil for up to five days at any one time and up to 15 days in any one school term. For longer periods, head teachers must have written agreement from the Education Department.”
They also confirmed that, following any suspension, “all young people are offered support when not attending school.”
Even with this support, the Commissioner said that these figures are "too high", and that they will be investigated as part of a project she is launching to investigate exclusions across the island's schools.
“...I am keen to find out why so many children are being excluded, and to consider what needs to happen in order to keep these children at school and in the classroom," Mrs McMillan said.
“I have visited the two sites, and have spoken to staff and pupils. I remain concerned about children outside of the classroom, through fixed-term exclusion or otherwise, and my office will be conducting a piece of work on this subject later this year."
Pictured: Children's Commissioner Deborah McMillan said she had visited both sites, and was "concerned" about the exclusions.
She continued: “We believe that it is important to hear directly from children themselves, as there appears to be little qualitative research in this area.
“Our project will focus on gaining a better understanding of the lived experiences of children who are not in school, with a particular focus on those vulnerable groups.
“We will also hear from children whose education is being disrupted because of the behaviour of other pupils in lessons.
“We will be establishing a steering group to advise the project, and we aim to develop the methodology with our Youth Advisory Panel.
“Our current thinking is that we will carry out in-depth, one-to-one interviews with children, young people and their parents and care-givers across the Island.
“Existing research shows that there is a clear link between attendance and examination results, so high levels of exclusion mean that children do less well at school.
“Tackling the issue of children out of the classroom requires a ‘whole system approach’ within a wider discussion on exclusion, school improvement, children’s rights and child-centred learning.”
Pictured: The Government say that an Inclusion Review looking at different models for supporting students is currently "in train."
The data obtained by Express also reveals that there have been five arrests made in Key Stages 2 and 3 of La Sente over the past three years.
A Government spokesperson said: “Students who attend La Sente have a range of complex needs. Consequently, teachers undertake extensive training to help them engage and support students in the learning process.
“However, there are occasions where the decision is reluctantly taken to exclude a student from school for the benefit of that student and/or their peers.
“All young people are offered support when not attending school and staff also work with students to enable their return to the setting and to re-engage with learning.
“An external Inclusion Review is in train. As part of its scope, the Inclusion Review will consider different models for supporting all students, including in-school support procedures and specialist additional facilities.
“The review will take into account the voice of all stakeholders, especially students themselves.”
The Government has previously stated that as part of this review, it would consider the idea of building Pupil Referral Units situated on the sites of mainstream schools.
This would keep students closer to the facilities they would receive in a mainstream school whilst also in a separate environment suited to their needs.
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