New Northamptonshire children's director warns of risk to excluded pupils as number rise

New children's director Sally Hodges said the council needs to deal with the rising number of excluded pupils.
New children's director Sally Hodges said the council needs to deal with the rising number of excluded pupils.

‘Any excluded child is a child at risk and we need to be dealing with it’ is the stark warning from the new children’s director at Northamptonshire County Council.

Sally Hodges made the comments at the council’s cabinet meeting last week after concerns were raised by councillors about the rising number of exclusions from Northamptonshire secondary schools.

In 2017/18 there were 150 permanent exclusions compared to 95 the year before. This is a 63 per cent increase.

Since the start of this academic year in September 59 secondary school pupils were excluded in the county.

Labour councillor Anjona Roy said the county authority had to take more of a lead.

She said: “The figures do reflect an increase and are a tragedy for every single family, every single child that is being denied access to education.

“These are some of the children who are most at risk in our communities and most at risk from the threatening aspects of our society.

“As a key organisation in the county we have a job in terms of leadership about how these problems should be tackled.

“A more punitive approach does not build bridges with communities.”

Conservative county councillor Andy Mercer agreed that the council should be doing more to address the issue.

He said: “Every exclusion is one too many. I have always been concerned about them. “

“It seems that when a child is excluded we have given up on them. We have got no right to give up on any child.

“Children who are excluded are very, very vulnerable. There is a significant risk they may be brought into gang culture.

“The time to fix it is at the beginning not later after they have been picked up by the law enforcement agencies.”

Sally Hodges, who started in post one month ago and whose department is being overseen by Children’s Commissioner Malcolm Newsam, told the meeting at One Angel Square that she had begun early conversations with the police and crime commissioners office and that this was a national issue.

She said: “Colleagues work very hard with schools on programmes around resilience and self preservation and how to help keep children in schools.

“I would not like people to think that people get excluded and nobody cares because this is far from the truth. But having said that we do recognise that any excluded child is a child at risk and we need to be dealing with it.”

There is a rising growing gang culture in Northamptonshire which has seen an increase in violent crime and drug offences. Children as young as seven are being drawn into gangs according to the county’s youth offending service.