Pupil suspensions double to nearly 800 over four years
THE number of pupils suspended from Jersey’s secondary schools has almost doubled in the past four years, with verbal and physical abuse of teachers the most common cause.
Figures obtained by the JEP through a freedom of information request have shown that 676 exclusions were made from secondary schools for the 2017/18 school year, while there were a further 107 in the Island’s primary schools.
The figure for secondary schools has almost doubled from 350 exclusions in 2014/2015, having risen year-on-year to 397 in 2015/16, and then to 527 in 2016/17.
Physical and verbal assaults on staff – the largest cause for exclusion – were raised as a major issue in a recent survey of the Island’s teachers and the matter is being investigated by the States.
In January 2018, the total number of pupils in schools in Jersey was 8,131 in primary schools and 6,005 in its secondary schools.
Of the secondary schools, Le Rocquier handed out the most exclusion penalties to unruly pupils – 270 in total. Meanwhile, the figure for Grainville – the next highest – was 181 and for Haute Vallée it was 141.
Jersey College for Girls excluded just five pupils, which was the lowest number of any school.
In 2017/18 verbal abuse and threatening behaviour towards an adult was the reason for 210 exclusions and was the single largest cause.
Persistent disruptive behaviour led to exclusion 152 times, physically assaulting a pupil was the reason 103 times, while 19 exclusions were handed out for drug and alcohol-related incidents.
Damage to property was given as a reason 23 times and there were 90 cases labelled as ‘other’.
A spokesperson for the Children, Young People, Education and Skills Department said the issues of assaults on staff had been raised and an investigation was under way.
A statement said: ‘There are no permanent exclusions in Jersey. The increase referred to in this FOI is due to repeated suspensions of a small number of children and young people, rather than there being a more widespread problem.
‘The increase in re-recorded suspensions in schools in the last two years is also due to a more accurate system of reporting suspensions. Last year the department introduced new requirements around how suspensions are recorded.
‘The department is determined to reduce the number of suspensions in our schools and works very closely with schools, partner agencies, parents and pupils to achieve this.
‘The issue of assaults, in particular verbal assaults on staff, was raised with the department as part of the Teacher Survey. The department is investigating the findings of this survey.’
Pupil exclusions are defined in two categories – permanent exclusions, of which there have been none, and suspensions.
A head teacher may suspend a pupil for up to five days at any one time and up to 15 days in any one school term. Suspensions can be ordered when a pupil’s behaviour falls well below expectations.
The spokesperson continued: ‘There are and will be children and young people who present schools with a wide range of behaviours that challenge. These behaviours are typically the result of different and interacting factors and there are occasions when this can lead to a period of suspension.
‘Where behaviour is a problem, schools can allocate additional resources and arrangements. These might include individual or small-group interventions and a more flexible curriculum offer to support children and young people.’
NEU Jersey’s president, Brendan Carolan, believes there could be a number of different factors that lead to head teachers taking exclusion action.
He added: ‘I would like to think that exclusions are made for really valid reasons, for abuse of staff and violence towards staff.
‘I would think it isn’t something that would be taken lightly and I am sure there are a number of macro factors behind these figures.
‘There could be pressures on children to achieve, social media and other things, or the rise in these numbers could just be a blip.’
Haute Vallée head teacher Stuart Hughes said he could not comment on the figures, as they were from before he joined the school. Le Rocquier and Grainville were contacted for comment.