22 March 2001

Q20, Alison Halford:

What actions has the Minister taken to combat social exclusion in our schools, particularly in north Wales? (OAQ10471).

Jane Davidson:

The White Paper, ‘Building Excellent Schools Together’, emphasised the need to tackle under-achievement and social exclusion with children who have behavioural difficulties or are disaffected. Disaffected pupils who may be truanting or who are at risk of being excluded from school are more likely to become socially excluded. The prospects for such children are poor. Research shows that they may become engaged in risk-taking behaviour, such as substance and alcohol abuse, and are more likely to become involved in criminal activity in later life. That is why we support efforts to reduce absence and exclusion from school.

In ‘Betterwales.com’ the Assembly has set targets of reducing unauthorised absences and permanent exclusions by a third by 2004. In order to assist with achieving those targets, the National Assembly has issued guidance under Circular 3/99, ‘Pupil Support and Social Inclusion’, which sets out a range of school-based actions to address pupil disaffection and to challenge behavioural difficulties. In addition, all local education authorities have behavioural support plans to help schools to deal with children with behavioural difficulties who are at risk of exclusion.

Funding is available to LEAs under the grants for education support and training programme to support work in the area of school attendance and behaviour. This can be used to support curriculum development, staff training, specialist pastoral care, re-integration and training in behaviour management. A sum of £3 million was allocated to school attendance and behaviour in 2000-01 and, within an overall increase in GEST resources, £9.86 million has been made available for tackling social disadvantage for 2001-02. It is for local authorities to decide how that money is spent within their local priorities.

I have been pleased with recent reports from LEAs on their spending in this area during 2000-01, which show a number of interesting and innovative projects. In Flintshire, for instance, GEST resources have been used to fund behaviour support teachers covering all four key stages, and training for staff in behaviour management. A team was set up in Denbighshire to monitor behaviour support, social inclusion and school attendance and, in Powys, two team leaders were appointed to provide support and access to complementary and alternative curriculum options for disengaged pupils.

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