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Sharp fall in number of violent pupils expelled or suspended

The number of cases where violent or abusive pupils have been suspended or expelled from state-run secondary schools in Scotland’s largest local authority has plummeted in the past year to its lowest-ever level, The Herald can reveal.

New figures show the number of exclusions at primary and secondary schools run by Glasgow City Council have dropped by a quarter, from 6462 in 2007-08 to 4926 in 2008-09.

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The biggest inroads have been made at secondary school level where there has been a 30% reduction in exclusions between 2007-08 and 2008-09.

Council officials believe the decrease is a result of a new strategy that ensures all schools first put in place support for disruptive youngsters, rather than automatically applying for exclusion.

Glasgow is also celebrating the fact that literacy and numeracy grades have risen to their highest ever levels.

In 2009, the proportion of pupils reaching appropriate national levels in reading, writing and maths in both primary and by the end of S2 reached record levels.

The impressive performance comes in the week that Margaret Doran, Glasgow’s executive director for education, stood down after internal wrangles over her role.

During the last two years, Ms Doran has instigated an intensive push on literacy and numeracy and has also developed a strategy to ensure all schools support disruptive young people, rather than excluding them.

Schools still do not tolerate violent or abusive behaviour, but, where a pupil is guilty of such an offence, different strategies are employed such as sin bins, the involvement of campus police officers and restorative justice techniques.

Last night, the figures were welcomed by Jonathan Findlay, the council’s executive member for education. “It is vital the option of exclusion remains available to schools if this is necessary to protect other youngsters and staff and Glasgow has a zero tolerance approach to anti-social behaviour in our schools.

“However, young people, school communities and society as a whole benefit if we work together with them and their families, and other agencies where appropriate, to solve the problems that lead to bad behaviour in the classroom.

“I would like to congratulate everyone in education services who has worked exceptionally hard to reduce exclusions -- these figures prove that their efforts are really paying off.”

In the past, teachers’ leaders have warned that the council’s strategy could result in violent pupils being returned to the classroom at the expense of school discipline, but, yesterday, officials from the Glasgow branch of the Educational Institute of Scotland, the country’s largest teaching union, welcomed the trend -- but issued a warning over future resources.

Hugh Donnelly, the new Glasgow branch secretary of the EIS, said: “There are still many challenging pupils within Glasgow schools and, if progress on exclusions is to be maintained, sufficient levels of resources to support these pupils need to be made available.

“If resources are cut and the support is not in place then we would be concerned. Keeping pupils in school and sitting them in a room on their own is not inclusion.”

On the rising levels of literacy and numeracy in the early years of secondary, Mr Donnelly said the national strategy of reducing maths and English class sizes in S1 and S2 was partly responsible.

On Wednesday, Ms Doran announced her decision to step down from her £120,000 post.

Originally, brought in to lead a combined education and social work department, her role was reduced in December after a report which described the joint department as “unwieldy”.

The move was said to have left her feeling “undermined”, while it also made it harder for her to deliver her vision to improve the life chances of Glasgow young people.

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