Highbury Grove suspended 631 pupils between 2017 and October but academy denies sending pupils home too ‘easily’

Highbury Grove School

Highbury Grove School - Credit: Archant

Highbury Grove suspended 631 pupils in little over two years – but the academy chain running it denies pupils are being sent home “too easily”.

City of London Academy Highbury Grove. Photo by Jamie Smith Photography

City of London Academy Highbury Grove. Photo by Jamie Smith Photography - Credit: Archant

City of London Academies Trust says "exclusions are falling" due to new behaviour policies brought in since it took control from the local authority in December 2017.

As of October, the school had already given 79 students fixed-term exclusions this school year. In the whole of 2018-19 the total was 251 in 2017-18 it was 301, according to figures obtained by the Gazette.

One Year 11 student had been permanently excluded as of October for "threats, bullying or aggressive behaviour towards students/ staff" - they were not previously suspended, according to the data provided following a freedom of information request.

In 2018-19 two Year 10 students were expelled for "illegal/ dangerous activity". They had previously been suspended seven and 18 times, respectively. And in 2017-18 there were six expulsions, with a total of 27 previous suspensions.

Islington's children's scrutiny committee published a report examining the use and impact of fixed term and permanent exclusions in June. It noted the rate of exclusions in Islington is "higher than the inner London and England averages" and is "comparatively higher than Islington's statistical neighbours".

Department for Education figures report 1,420 fixed-period exclusions in the borough's secondary schools in 2017-18. There were 20 permanent exclusions from Islington's secondary schools - and six from its primary's. The report by the council's scrutiny committee made 16 recommendations, including for the "special educational needs of pupils to be recognised in school behaviour management practices".

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It stated: "The committee heard concerns that some pupils with special education needs and learning disabilities may not be receiving adequate support to stay in mainstream education."

The committee advised schools to "closely link" special educational needs and behaviour management, and said a "good practice guide for schools" in the borough should be created.

There were nearly 50 per cent fewer fixed term and permanent exclusions in Islington schools in September 2019 compared to September 2018.

A trust spokesperson said: "The school joined the City of London Academies Trust after it was put into the special measures category following an Inadequate Ofsted judgement under previous management.

"Since joining the trust, new behaviour policies have been put in place and the school was quickly praised by Ofsted for its "swift" and "effective" improvements to pupil behaviour, which has been transformed.

"Exclusions are falling, exam results are improving, and teachers and staff are providing a very high standard of education to our students."

Case study:

Tylar Turley, 15, attended High Grove from Year 7 until January, when his mother says she was forced to withdraw him due to bullying that allegedly "wasn't dealt with", and the sheer number of detentions and suspensions he was receiving.

His mother, Lisa, says Tylar has autism and other learning difficulties and is on an education health and care plan, but didn't the support he needed at Highbury Grove.

Lisa said: "Instead of being understanding of him they were really harsh. He got detentions, he was suspended four times. Even with his diagnosis they were really harsh. He was being put into a room for the whole day called ER, getting suspensions and detentions.

They just didn't understand him.

"They didn't care about his autism or anything.

"It's disgusting. If there is any kids with disabilities, learning difficulties, anything along them lines, I don't think they should allow them to go to the school."

She said he was suspended three or four times last year alone, for "trivial" reason such as missing an after-school detention.

"When it became an academy they stopped the nurture group and put him straight into mainstream with everybody else," she said. "It wasn't too harsh at that time."

The trust said it doesn't comment on individual cases, but the Gazette understands Tylar's case was considered by an independent panel.

The number of students with special educational needs who have been suspended or excluded from Highbury Grove over the past few years could not be divulged for fear it may identify those involved, according to the trust