Chesterfield school’s academy take-over crackdown led to expulsions

Outwood Academy, Newbold, Chesterfield.
Outwood Academy, Newbold, Chesterfield.

Nine students were permanently excluded when a Chesterfield school was converted into an academy, a report has revealed.

The figures were revealed in a study into expulsions across Derbyshire, published by the county council.

Outwood Academy, NewBold, Chesterfield.

Outwood Academy, NewBold, Chesterfield.

It claimed that three-and-a-half years ago, when Newbold School changed to Outwood Academy Newbold, its new administration chose to “go in hard” instead of “continuing with sticking plaster solutions” and permanently excluded nine students.

Since becoming an academy, a total of 22 students have been permanently excluded.

The report also revealed that across Derbyshire last year, there were 136 permanent exclusions, up from 111 and 94 in the two previous years respectively.

Blame for this was placed on a lack of mental health support, reduced school budgets and new assessment methods. For more on this story, click HERE

Outwood Academy Newbold, which has 883 pupils, also dished out more than 2,000 hours of after-school detentions this year – more than two hours per pupil.

Principal Steve Roberts and vice principal Andy Scruby submitted a joint statement as part of the report.

They stated that the school was in special measures when the Outwood Grange Academy Trust took it over, and was then rated good by education watchdog Ofsted in the academy’s first inspection in 2017.

Regarding permanent exclusions, they said: “In the first year of taking over the school, the management team had to address entrenched behaviour issues and ineffective behaviour management measures that had previously been adopted.

“Therefore rather than continuing with ‘sticking plaster solutions’ it was necessary to ‘go in hard’ to achieve the desired end result of a safe and well-performing learning environment.

“Consequently there were a high number of permanent exclusions in the first year.

“The behaviour log of the school showed that these nine students should have been permanently excluded long before the school converted to an academy and that they would have been excluded from any mainstream school.”

Permanent exclusions did decrease at the school after the first year, with seven in year two, five in year three and one so far this year.

The report also states that permanent exclusions for one-off incidents have overtaken exclusions handed out for persistent bad behaviour.

Two examples of what can lead to instant permanent exclusions include carrying a bladed item in school – which one student had claimed was a “fishing knife gift from grandad” – “and maliciously setting off the fire alarm”.

The statement from the principal and vice principal said: “Head teachers from other schools are surprised at this but the trust has had experience of the alarm being repeatedly set off and this has health and safety implications and disrupts learning.”

Academy leadership said that use of fixed-term exclusions levels are much higher at Newbold than both the national average and any other school in Derbyshire.

Fixed-term exclusions are limited to a set period, after which the student may return.

They said that “it is perhaps an approach that wouldn’t go down well with other school leadership teams”.

The fixed-term expulsion at Newbold can reach up to 45 days, depending on the incident and how many times the pupil has behaved poorly.

Academy leaders said: “When the incident occurs the academy takes a hard line.

“The length of the fixed term exclusion will depend on where the student is on the behaviour tariff and the exclusion is applied with minimal debate with the student.

“On reintegration, the student and parents meet with the senior leadership team and the learning manager to review the concern that led to the exclusion.

“The approach is not to dwell on the behaviour and not to hold grudges’.

“The focus is on learning and moving forward. It is about welcoming the student back and identifying the appropriate support.”

Meanwhile, the school also handed out more than 2,000 detentions in the current academic year – these last for an hour and are held after school.

Not bringing a calculator to a maths, geography or science lesson and a failure to do science homework are two of 15 code of conduct breaches which can lead to detention.

The Academy leadership said: “Within the context of the Trust’s approach to behaviour management it is not anticipated that there will be a reduction in in the number of detentions or fixed term exclusions.

“Each Academy is focused on continuous improvement and so the approach is to ‘ratchet up’ what is expected from the students.

“If a student doesn’t turn up for detention they are put in the isolation room the following day.

“The number of students placed in the isolation room has reduced significantly.

“The immediate sanction of detention has proved to be effective.”

Students are encouraged to make their first GCSE choices in Year 8 – aged 12 – and start some of their GCSE courses in Year 9 – aged 13.

Around 70 per cent of students take triple science – as opposed to just the top set of each year in most schools – students in Year 11 do six hours of science a week

Eddie Bisknell , Local Democracy Reporting Service