An increase in the number of primary school pupils excluded from classrooms in Milton Keynes has prompted councillors to call for education experts to nip problems in the bud.
The latest figures, for 2017/18, showed an increase from eight to 12 in the number of permanent exclusions and a jump from 420 to 457 in fixed-term bans, compared to the previous year.
Social worker Cllr Jane Carr (Lib Dem, Newport Pagnell South) told Wednesday’s Scrutiny Management Committee that it was critical that services need to be put into place to help children’s speech and language skills.
Cllr Carr, who chairs the council’s Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee, said: “One point to come out of the report that struck me hardest was that each child who was referred to the Pupil Referral Unit, or facing exclusion, was already known to this authority.
“I think we have to do something to address that. If we already know these children, that means that we are identifying them at a much younger age than five. We’ve got to be putting those services in.
“We’re not talking about early intervention when they enter the system, we’re talking about early intervention prior to them coming into the system.
“I can’t stress enough how important speech and language is because if a child cannot communicate, it becomes frustrated, it becomes disruptive and cannot engage with the environment it is in. It is so critical.”
Earlier this year councillors set up a group, called a task and finish group, to look in-depth at alternative provision in MK’s primary education sector.
Chaired by Cllr David Hopkins (Cons, Danesborough & Walton), the group made five recommendations that will be referred to the council’s Cabinet for action.
One of the recommendations is that priority is given to identifying children with challenging behaviour and focuses on early intervention. They also want to explore how poor mental health affects children’s behaviour and how this can best be addressed.
Cllr Hopkins, who is also a school governor, said: “I do not want to see a single child excluded from mainstream education.
“If the recommendations, or 75 per cent of the recommendations, are followed, then we can get to that position.”