By Local Democracy Reporter
AT least 3,337 children have been off-rolled from Essex schools in the past five years – with a jump of more than 50 per cent in just one year.
Off-rolling is where schools encourage parents to take their child out of school, so that the child does not bring down the school’s overall results.
Between 2016/17 and 2017/18 the number of children off-rolled in all secondary and primary schools in Essex jumped from 631 to 978 – an increase of 54 per cent.
The numbers fell slightly the following year in 2018/2019, to 854, but it still represented a 35 per cent increase compared to the rate in 2016/17.
The number of primary school children being off-rolled increased from 249 in 2016/17 to 367 in 2017/18. And the number decreased slightly the next year, to 334.
The number of secondary children off-rolled jumped from 382 in 2016/17 to 520 in 2018/19.
The problem has been picked up by Essex County Council (ECC) which said schools needed to think about the damage their decision will be having to young people – especially in light of the risks they face by subsequently falling into gangs once they are no longer welcome at schools.
Cllr Ray Gooding, cabinet member for schools and education, told ECC’s people and families policy and scrutiny committee last month that ECC was aware off situations where children are being encouraged to leave school.
He said: “We do have evidence where that is happening and we want to intervene to prevent that.
“All children need the best chance and to be in school is the safest place they can be.
“They are less likely to be preyed upon if they are in school.”
Recent figures have shown that the number of children being permanently expelled from primary and secondary schools in Essex has fallen, but the number temporarily barred due to violent or disruptive behaviour has gone up.
Essex has one of the worst rates of temporary exclusion for children at primary school – in 2016/17 a total of 752 children were temporarily excluded, which increased to 870 the year after.
That said the numbers permanently excluded fell slightly from 38 to 29.
Nationally the number of children permanently excluded has gone down less, while the number temporarily excluded has increased slightly less between the two periods.
In Essex the number of children expelled permanently because of assaults against another child has increased from nine to 14.
Cllr Gooding added: “We have talked about schools which have a zero tolerance issue with drugs.
“We know the challenges young people are presented with and the temptations they are presented with.
“But where as an adult who is in possession of drugs if arrested will probably be cautioned and told to go on their way.
“At schools they are likely to be excluded and in years 10 and 11 or at any stage a permanent exclusion is potentially a life sentence.
“There is an inconsistency between the two.
“The police are aware of that, because a permanently excluded child is then on the street and essentially vulnerable and likely to be preyed on.
“We need to try to change the situation.”
He added: “I’m not suggesting there shouldn’t be a zero tolerance of knives and drugs at school but the schools need to be aware and understand the impact of what they do.
“They may have removed their problem but the society problem hasn’t gone away.
“We want to try to get a culture shift from the deliberations we are going to make.”
Over the past five years the figures are even more stark – in 2014/2015 322 children were recorded as having being off-rolled, which increased by 165 per cent to 854 in 2018/19.
However schools have only had to inform ECC for the past three years so that earlier data may not give the full picture.
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