SCHOOL exclusions in the borough of Neath Port Talbot have increased by almost 40% since 2019, according to a report heard by council bosses at a monthly education meeting.
The figures that were discussed last month at an Education, Skills and Wellbeing Cabinet Board revealed how issues with behaviour had worsened over the past four years, particularly it said, since pupils had returned to school following the Covid-19 pandemic.
Data revealed the number of pupils with fixed-term exclusions had risen from 545 in the 2018-19 academic school year to 760 in the 2022-23 school year, representing an increase of 39%.
Similarly, when it came to permanent exclusions there was an increase from 17 pupils during 2018-19 school year, to 47 being permanently excluded from school in 2022-23, with years 8, 9, and 10 said to have the highest numbers.
The report given to members of Neath Port Talbot Council highlighted that “persistent disruptive behaviour” was the reason for the highest number of exclusions during the year, followed by “verbal or threatening behaviour towards an adult.”
It also noted that this rise was not in isolation from the rest of the country, with similar problems currently being seen right across Wales when it came to behavioural issues.
The report read: “Exclusions from schools need to be looked at in the wider context including, adverse childhood experiences, links to poverty, the impact of education funding, reduction in grants, a high number of movers into the area with complex needs and how schools/headteachers are held accountable.
“A number of headteachers have reported a notable increase in behavioural issues by pupils since their return to school following the Covid pandemic which in turn has had a consequential increase in the number of exclusions issued.”
It added: “Anecdotal evidence from officer conversations with colleagues in other local authorities suggests that many other local authorities have seen a significant increase in behavioural issues over the past year or two and exclusion rates have increased across Wales. To what extent is yet to be understood.”
As part of the discussions officers provided members with a list of alternative solutions that could help avoid exclusions in the future, including access to a more appropriate curriculum that better meets the needs of pupils, pastoral support programmes, and the creation of a new team that could identify pupils at risk of detachment from school.
Other options could see a focus on what was described as restorative justice, which gives pupils the opportunity to redress the harm that has been done, along with managed moves if a school can no longer meet the needs of a particular pupil.
Cllr Rober William Wood of Sandfields West said he was thankful for the alternative recommendations, which could help address the problems moving forward.
He said: “We’ve got bear in mind that with the cost-of-living crisis as it is, these exclusions are a punishment to parents these days just as much as they are a punishment to the children, and we’ve got to realise that certain families that are out there are really struggling.
“When a child is sent home from school that parent may have to take a day off work, and I welcome a lot of what we are saying in terms of restorative justice and things like that, and I just wanted to thank the officers for looking in to this, and looking at alternatives to what is really a national problem.”