Council meetings

Agenda item

In-depth review - Exclusions from school - third evidence session

The committee will receive presentations from:

·         Lewisham Education Group – represented by Janet G and Susan Rowe

·         No More Exclusions – represented by Cedric Whilby, Alanna O’Garro, Zahra Bei, Jonathan Bob-Amara, Joshua Moses









The Chair invited those Members that had attended the visits to Abbey Manor College (AMC) - Lewisham’s Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) – and Myatt Garden Primary School to share their observations.


4.2      It was noted that:

1.    Attainment at AMC was higher than the national average for PRUs, although still lower than mainstream.

2.    The new head teacher of AMC had worked hard with the local authority to achieve this.

3.    Pupils at the PRU were expected to work towards a minimum of 5 GCSEs at KS4. Where a pupil had been excluded in Y11, AMC would try to match the qualifications of their school.


4.3      Ruth Griffiths, Service Manager – Access, Inclusion and Participation, introduced the report and the following was noted in discussion:

1.    80% of the primary school children at Kennington Park Academy (KPA) either have or are working towards an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). They will move on to mainstream or specialist provision, depending on their individual needs.

2.    Managed moves had a high success rate.

3.    Officers were currently geographically mapping exclusions but no real pattern was emerging.

4.    There was insufficient capacity within the team to do any more deep-dive work on exclusions.

5.    The percentage of BAME pupils excluded decreases between Years 9 and 11.

6.    Some members asked to see a breakdown of exclusions by ethnicity for each school.

7.    Ethnicity data for managed moves would only be available if the schools involved had provided it.

8.    Although Lewisham primary schools have no permanent exclusions, the local authority commissioned 10 places in 2017/18 at KPA for children in crisis. This option was only used at the end of a graduated response where respite was needed. These places were reserved for children with the greatest need. Families had been very positive about the provision at KPA and the local authority was growing the relationship with KPA.

9.    All schools referring children to AMC are expected to go through Fair Access Panel (FAP). AMC has a small number of assessment places but these are not a main route into the school for those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. The Hospital Outreach Programme is the appropriate alternative provider for children with medical needs.

10. Some Members were concerned that the numbers of children that were permanently excluded comparative to the general school population were too small to statistically analyse.

11. Other Members felt that looking at the relatively small numbers over several years could help to identify any patterns or trends.


4.4      The Chair invited Janet G and Susan Rowe of Lewisham Education Group (LEG) to address the committee.


4.5      The committee heard that:

1.    LEG is a sub-set of Ubuntu Social Living Networks, a group which looks at black children in the diaspora. LEG came about as parents came together in response to the Lewisham Education Commission report in 2016.

2.    Daniel Pink of Ubuntu addressed the committee. He said that Lewisham has among the worst secondary school results in London and that black children make up a significant proportion of the school population. He quoted a statistic that appeared in a report to the CYP Select Committee on 5 September 2018 “If you were a Black African-Caribbean boy with special needs and eligible for free school meals you were 168 times more likely to be permanently excluded from a state funded school than a white girl without special needs from a middle class family” and stressed the need for a better future.

3.    Susan Rowe is a parent of 3 children, one at a Russell Group University. She is a parent-advocate in exclusions. She explained that most parents do not understand the process, the jargon and felt that schools do work hard to keep children but lack the funds to support some children who are struggling in mainstream school and are at risk of exclusion.

4.    The group’s motto was “nothing about us without us”. Ms Rower urged the committee and officers to involve parents in policy design and decision making.

5.    Ms Rowe advised the committee that mental health needs were not being taken seriously and parents and schools were having to battle for diagnoses.

6.    Whether called a managed move or an exclusion, the net result was that the child was being shifted between schools.

7.    Many of the issues playing out at schools were problems in the community and therefore the community needed to be involved in solving these problems.

8.    When asked about good practice, Ms Rowe read a long list of drivers that lead to Black Afro-Caribbean boys being over- represented in exclusions, as well as strategies for preventing or minimising exclusions. These included building self-esteem, tackling unconscious bias, providing mental health support, respectful discipline, building relationships. Full details are attached to the minutes at Appendix A.


4.6      The Chair thanked her for the solutions that she had identified and gave assurances that these would be fed into recommendations for the Mayor and Cabinet to steer their policy making.


4.7      The Chair then invited No More Exclusions (NME) to address the committee.


4.8      Zahra Bei, Alana O’Garro, Cedric Whilby, Joshua Moses, and Jonathan Bob-Amara gave a presentation (slides are attached at Appendix B) in which they gave their views as follows:


1.    That exclusions disproportionately affect Black Caribbean boys was not a new problem. It had been the case for the last 50 years at least, and the issues highlighted in 1971 book by Bernard Coard “How the West Indian child is made educationally subnormal in the British school system” were still a problem today.

2.    Racial bias was systemic and a radical, complete overhaul of the education system was required.

3.    A change in philosophy was needed to see the problem as being with the system, and not with the child.

4.    There needed to be greater emphasis on:

o   restorative justice over punishment

o   relationships in schools

o   spending on training, pedagogy etc

o   change the understanding of ‘being in school’ to ‘being in lessons’. Internal exclusions eg being sent out of the classroom, or time in an isolation block also keeps the child from learning

o   knowledge and learning over discipline and behaviour

5.    Disruptive behaviour is the ‘fruit not the root’. Behaviour happens as a result of unmet need or a trigger.

6.    schools need to communicate their internal interventions to parents so parents are aware of incidents in the classroom.

7.    Parents need supporting through primary to secondary transition.

8.    Although governors have the authority to quash the head teacher’s decision to permanently exclude, they tend to trust the head teacher. The process needs to be changed to be fairer to the child.

9.    Do not build a community of rejected young people who find their tribe in the wrong places.


4.9            A discussion followed and the following was noted:

1.    The Committee professed to be bold and ambitious in its strive for change and intended to produce a wide and deep report to inform and influence the Mayor and Cabinet to make policy changes

2.    Thought needed to be given about what the council and schools could do to implement ‘nothing about us without us’

3.    LEG was run entirely by volunteers and received no funding.

4.    NME called for greater black representation on council committees

5.    Some issues would be best dealt with by lobbying central government, for example for funding

6.    Generally, the Black Caribbean cohort in Lewisham performs well in the Early Years Foundation Stage, but declines as they move through the Key Stages. 10 schools were bucking that trend and work needed to be done to replicate this across all schools.

7.    The council’s Corporate Strategy made a commitment to diversify representation on school governing bodies

8.    Some Members felt the advocacy work provided by groups such as LEG should be available to schools through Lewisham Learning. It was acknowledged that the contentious nature of advocacy work may require it to have a separate funding stream.


4.10    The Chair thanked the representatives of both LEG and NME for their constructive input.


4.11    It was RESOLVED that the report and the content of the presentations be noted.


Supporting documents: