Campaigners unite for anti-exclusion crusade

Campaigners opposed to the exclusion of pupils for anti-social behaviour in and out of school are attempting to form a "mass movement" to fight the policy.

A number of organisations already exist to oppose exclusions from mainstream schools, which disproportionately affects Afro-Caribbean pupils. These groups include the Communities Empowerment Network, Parents for Inclusion, and the Alliance for Inclusive Education.

Teachers union NASUWT has called for special schools for pupils with behavioural problems and learning difficulties to be expanded (Third Sector, 21 April).

Parents for Inclusion responded by calling for the closing of all specialist schools and for funds to be diverted to mainstream schools.

The Government is committed to reducing exclusions, while teachers' unions have demanded more resources to cope with difficult pupils and those with conditions such as autism.

Now the lottery-funded Communities Empowerment Network is calling a meeting to co-ordinate opposition to exclusion. Director Gerry German said: "We hope to form an organisation called Parents and Students Empowerment, which we want to be a mass movement. We are calling a meeting on 8 May to establish a steering committee.

We are inviting a whole range of people to organise it on a national basis. The feeling is that nothing will be done until there is a mass movement.

"Nobody really supports those children that have been excluded or their families," added German. "It does not seem to be a popular cause. And all the evidence shows that exclusion doesn't actually work. Many children get involved in criminal activities."

Head of education at the National Union of Teachers, John Bangs, said he disagreed with the network's interpretation of the legislation: "At the end of the day, if a child's behaviour cannot be coped with, the school has no choice but to exclude."

The Education Act 2002 gave schools discretionary powers to exclude those pupils considered to be disruptive, and head teachers have recently been given powers to remove pupils who are involved in offences committed outside of school.

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