Breaches of Covid rules behind dozens of school exclusions in Milton Keynes last year, figures reveal

Department for Education figures show "wilful and repeated transgression of protective measures" for Covid was a reason behind 53 exclusions from schools in MK in the 2020-21 academic year.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 3rd August 2022, 1:36 pm

Of these, 42 were in secondary schools and 11 in primary schools.

But Labour say the government's lack of clear guidance over pandemic measures threatened children's futures and contributed to almost 13,000 of such exclusions nationally.

Children across England were excluded 12,965 times for reasons including non-compliance with social distancing, causing distress such as by purposefully coughing near to others, or any other deliberate breach of a school's public health measures.

Dozens of pupils were excluding for breaching Covid rules in MK schools last year

Schools were able to list multiple reasons for each exclusion for the first time last year.

Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said schools worked very hard to keep pupils and staff safe during the pandemic, and it is not unreasonable that young people should be expected to comply with these measures.

However, Stephen Morgan MP, Labour’s shadow schools minister, said: “The Conservatives have created deep divides in school exclusions, with the lack of clear guidance, especially during the pandemic, threatening children’s futures and failing communities.

“The government’s own independent review highlights the need to tackle exclusions and ensure children are supported in order to improve life chances.

“No parent wants to see their child excluded from school but once again the Conservatives have treated our children and their future opportunities as an afterthought.”

In Milton Keynes, there were a total of 1,878 exclusions (1,878 temporary and none permanent) for all reasons last year – up from 1,850 in 2019-20.

Of the 16 possible reasons for exclusion, public health was the seventh most frequent.

The most common reasons were for persistent disruptive behaviour, physical assault against a pupil, and verbal abuse or threatening behaviour towards an adult.

The National Association of Head Teachers said schools following guidance were sometimes forced to suspend students in cases of persistent rule breaking and unsafe behaviour, with school leaders making tough decisions to keep everyone safe.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said permanent exclusions are a rare but necessary way of managing behaviour – but should not mean exclusion from education.