13 pupils excluded each day for attacks, abuse and theft

MORE than 13 pupils a day are excluded from Edinburgh schools for offences including attacks, theft and fireraising.

New figures show 2585 children in primary and secondary schools were excluded in just one year for a host of incidents, ranging from threatening and aggressive behaviour to assaulting classmates or teachers with weapons.

Although the overwhelming majority of exclusions were temporary, 117 youngsters were expelled permanently. These pupils were transferred to another school, left school altogether, or educated at home.

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The figures, from 2005-6, are the most recent figures produced by the city council, and were released to the Evening News under the Freedom of Information Act.

They follow the Scottish Government's publication of national statistics yesterday which revealed the rate of exclusion had gone up by four per cent in the past year.

Edinburgh's own statistics reveal a worrying trend in violent attacks against teachers, as well as against fellow pupils. Twenty-one of the pupils who received permanent exclusions received the punishment for physically abusing staff or fellow pupils – including five primary children.

A further 25 – including a primary one pupil – were permanently excluded for aggressive or threatening behaviour.

Other children received temporary exclusions for substance misuse, threatening sexual violence, being verbally abusive to staff and pupils, and damaging school property.

Although fewer pupils were excluded in 2005-6 than the year before, Edinburgh's education leader Councillor Marilyne MacLaren said today she was "determined" to reduce the number further.

The Evening News revealed on Monday the full extent of the frequent violence faced by teachers in West Lothian, after the local authority provided detailed results under a Freedom of Information request.

Teaching staff there fell victim to 151 attacks in 2006-7, ranging from being threatened with broken glass to receiving death threats from pupils.

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Colin Mackay, secretary of teachers' union EIS in Edinburgh, said these incidents showed just why school exclusions were often necessary.

He said: "While exclusion is regretted, if in fact the system can't cope with some kids in other ways, it's inevitable that it will continue to happen.

"It's very important in securing the welfare of teachers that such a sanction remains in place.

"Some people will jump to the conclusion that a high rate of exclusion means a failing in the education system, but instead it means a high level of care being exercised by the employer."

Edinburgh is set to publish its exclusion rates from 2006-7 within the next month, after a data error prevented the authority from releasing the figures earlier.

Cllr MacLaren said today: "It is my intention to put in additional resources to specifically target this area in a bid to reduce the number of children who find themselves in this difficult position.

"We currently use a variety of staged interventions, for example, early identification of needs, involvement of parents, additional in class support, behaviour support co-ordinator involvement and individual and group work in a support base.

"Additional strategies also used in some schools include use of a flexible curriculum, work experience for pupils and links with colleges."