Northern schools with the highest exclusion rates in the country will get a letter from Ofsted warning them to remove children only “as a last resort”.
It comes after Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, used her annual report to caution schools may be excluding ‘difficult’ secondary school children before exams to boost academic results.
The schools inspectorate will write to headteachers in the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber to sound the alarm.
Middlesbrough, Barnsley, Redcar and Cleveland, Doncaster, North Lincolnshire, Rotherham, Sheffield and North East Lincolnshire make up eight of the ten local authorities with the highest rates of exclusions in the country.
Redcar and Cleveland and Doncaster saw the greatest year-on-year increase - 214% and 117% respectively.
Cathryn Kirby, Ofsted’s regional director for the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber, has said she finds the high rates in the region “difficult to understand”.
She is also asking inspectors to pay particular attention to schools’ use of exclusions when examining leadership, management and pupil behaviour.
Kirby said: “I fully appreciate variations between individual secondary schools and recognise that there may be valid reasons for schools to exclude pupils. But it is difficult to understand why fixed-period exclusion should be so much more necessary in these eight local authorities compared with others.
“Schools should only ever use exclusions as a last resort. If not properly applied, being removed from school can disrupt a child’s education and affect their future life chances.
“So I am asking inspectors to look very carefully at the use of exclusion in areas with high rates compared with national and regional figures. We want to be certain that pupils are being removed for the right reasons.”
The National Education Union, meanwhile, criticised the Government’s for fostering an “exam factory” approach to education while presiding over huge cuts to local authority funding.
Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: “Rising numbers of exclusion is a worrying trend and one to which the Department for Education must give serious and constructive consideration. Schools should be places where all children can enjoy their learning in a supportive, vibrant and caring environment where they are supported to achieve their best.
“Instead the system is failing many children with the creation of an exam factory environment leading to some students feeling demoralised and lost. Chronic cuts to school and local authority funding have also resulted in many support services schools relied upon to cope with serious behavioural or mental health issues either closed down or drastically reduced.
“While there is not one magic solution the Education Secretary needs to address the ever narrowing curriculum and relentless focus on test and exam preparation. Schools and local authorities also need to have the funding necessary to give the support some families and children need to ensure they achieve their potential.”