17/10/2011 07:30 BST | Updated 16/12/2011 05:12 GMT

Schools Forced To Take Responsibility For Expelled Pupils

Schools will be forced to take responsibility for pupils they expel in a new trial piloted by the government.

The new scheme was revealed on Monday and will see around 300 - or one in 10 - secondary schools and their head teachers decide where the excluded children are taught.

Under the current system, it is parents who are responsible for the first five days after their child is permanently excluded. The responsibility then passes on to the local authority to find the child full-time education. This may either be in a pupil referral unit or an organisation which specialises in improving behaviour or vocational subjects.

Now it will be the responsibility of the head teacher to choose the alternative provision. The school will receive the funding which would usually have been allocated to the relevant local authority.

According to the Department for Education (DfE), 5,020 secondary school students were permanently excluded in the school year 2009/10. Recent figures show only 1.4 per cent of pupils excluded and sent to alternative provision achieved five "good" GCSEs, including maths and English.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said improving behaviour in schools remained a "key priority" for the government and the statistics were "not good enough".

"We support head teachers who permanently exclude those children who persistently disrupt the education of others or who bully other children", he said.

"We need to ensure, however, exclusion does not lead those children to abandon education," Gibb added. "The quality of education for permanently excluded children is so poor that scarcely any achieve the minimum level of qualifications they need to succeed."

It has not yet been made known how many pupils have been excluded in the past academic year.

Around 3,000 secondary students who are at risk of being expelled from school will be affected in the trial, which will last for three years and see seven local authorities participating. Derbyshire, Lancashire and East Sussex are among those involved.

General secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) Brian Lightman said: "We have significant concerns about these proposals.

Schools need to be able to exclude pupils sometimes and we are most anxious no deterrents are put in place which would stop schools from the decision they make rarely, but need to be able to make."

Lightman added the association was pleased the government decided to pilot the new scheme and did not "rush into" the initiative.

"We will be watching this pilot with interest", he added. "The key issue will be if sufficient funds are available in order to enable the schools to put in place high quality provision for those pupils."

The government hopes the scheme will encourage schools to intervene at an earlier stage and aid pupils who are at a high risk of being excluded.

Head teachers have the power to permanently exclude a pupil if they have seriously or persistently breached the school behaviour policy and if allowing said pupil to remain at school would seriously harm the education and/or welfare of other students.

Chesterton Community College is taking part in the trial, which will be reviewed at the end of each year and due to finish in July 2014.

Head teacher Mark Patterson said:

"By having more control over alternative provision and the funding, we can have better provision in our own schools for those students who would previously have been permanently excluded or who would have simply ‘dropped out' and then been hard or impossible to re-engage. The system has worked well with referrals to alternative provision falling by 60 per cent over the past three years, which means far fewer students out of school – and that has to be a good thing.”

But there have been concerns raised over adding extra responsibilities to the already-full plate of secondary school heads.

Sue, a 56-year-old mother from Brighton, has two children at her local secondary school and expressed concern over the proposed changes.

"Head teachers already have to shoulder a huge burden. I'm worried they will now spend the majority of their time trying to place disruptive children, rather than taking care of the children who behave themselves and deserve to be at school."