DESPITE the Covid-19 pandemic, there were more than 2,000 fixed-term exclusions of children in Oxfordshire during 2020.

The pandemic saw exclusions significantly down on previous years however there was still 2,367 fixed-term exclusions across primary and secondary schools.

Of these exclusions, 378 were in primary schools and 1,989 in secondaries.

The figures, which cover January to October, reveal that hundreds of children were excluded after schools reopened in June.

See also: Concerns raised over access to remote learning

Bicester Advertiser: The number of exclusions in Oxfordshire schools since 2016The number of exclusions in Oxfordshire schools since 2016

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request submitted by the Oxford Mail shows there 598 fixed-term exclusions in primary and secondary schools in September and October, with permanent disruptive behaviour and physical assault against a pupil the most common reason for exclusion.

Meanwhile, permanent exclusions were down from 92 last year, with just 21 cases, two of which were in primary schools.

A spokesperson for Oxfordshire County Council said ‘a very small number of fixed-term exclusions were issued by schools when pupils did not comply with Covid safety requirements’.

The spokesperson continued: “All schools, whether they are maintained by the council or not, have full discretion on matters pertaining to exclusion.

“The council advised, and continues to advise, on inclusion matters to promote pupils’ wellbeing, mental health and adaptations to meet special educational needs.

Read more: Nursery boss says Early Years ‘thrown under the Covid bus’

“Fixed-term exclusions have risen across the country, Oxfordshire is not an exception to this.

“A range of resources have been created for school leaders to utilise in lieu of exclusion, both fixed-term and permanent, including an advice line, review of alternative provision available, a preventing exclusions checklist, early intervention and prevention guidance and development of the special needs continuum.

“Permanent exclusions have reduced significantly this academic year due to a focus on early intervention, prevention and accountability in terms of inclusion adherence.”

County councillor Liz Brighouse said it was difficult for local authorities like the council to advise academies on exclusions.

Bicester Advertiser: Oxfordshire county councillor Liz Brighouse. Picture: Greg BlatchfordOxfordshire county councillor Liz Brighouse. Picture: Greg Blatchford

She said: “The thing with Covid is that like the rest of us, it’s made children very anxious and their behaviour challenging.

“I think there’s been a lot of tension in our schools this year, self-isolation has been dispiriting for our students and teachers.

“It’s very difficult for local authorities to advise academies, especially with the secondary schools.

“The education scrutiny committee has tried to do work to understand why the numbers have been rising but while we can look at it and talk to schools, at the end of the day it is the decision of schools and trustees to exclude students.”

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