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Exclusive: School suspensions - Hundreds of pupils thrown out of class

Behavioural issues and assaults account for most of the exclusions in the country’s leading Jewish schools

    Click on the pie chart above to open up an interactive infographic of the full figures

    Jewish secondary schools have a better record on pupil behaviour than their mainstream counterparts, a JC investigation reveals today.

    But despite having lower than average numbers of pupil suspensions, sexual misconduct, drug-taking and violence were among the most serious offences.

    Pupils were told to stay away from school following incidents of racist abuse, assault and theft in the past year. In one case, a student at Manchester's King David High School was suspended for 10 days for taking part in sexual activity in a disabled toilet.

    Another was sent away for two days for theft from the deputy headmaster's office and another for being rude to a headteacher.

    At JFS, Europe's biggest Jewish school, there were 14 suspensions for sexual misconduct - six per cent of the school's total suspensions and also six times higher than the national average for state-funded secondary schools. None of the other schools reported such cases.

    JCoSS suspended six times as many children for physical assaults against an adult than the national average.

    Details of the number of suspensions at the country's largest Jewish secondary schools - JFS, JCoSS, Hasmonean High School, all in north London; King Solomon High School in Essex; Yavneh College in Hertfordshire; and King David - were obtained by the JC under the Freedom of Information Act. The figures account for suspensions from September 2011 into this academic year.

    In total there were 641 suspensions in the past four academic years at the schools, including 83 for abusing or threatening an adult and 98 for physical assaults against pupils.

    However, Jewish institutions compared favourably to the national average for suspensions.

    JFS suspended nine children for drug or alcohol-related offences, more in this category than the other schools combined.

    A total of 21 pupils were temporarily excluded for theft, proportionally four and a half times above the national average. The school's figures for racist abuse and bullying - with seven students suspended in both categories - were twice the national rate.

    JFS saw a 71 per cent reduction in suspensions year on year between 2013 and 2014. Only 23 pupils were suspended in 2014, compared with 78 the year before.

    And also, for the first time in four years, no suspensions were handed out for racist abuse. Physical assaults on students and persistent disruptive behaviour also decreased significantly.

    JFS headteacher Jonathan Miller welcomed the decline and defended his students' disciplinary record.

    He said: "The overwhelming majority of students at JFS behave exceptionally well. Sometimes a fixed-term exclusion, whilst a last resort, can provide an appropriate sanction for certain behaviours that do not meet our high standards.

    "If imposed, the intention is to provide a clear message to the students involved and other students about the seriousness of the incident which has led to this response. We are pleased that the number of fixed-term exclusions has fallen drastically over the last year."

    He refused to answer questions about the prevalence of sexual misconduct, theft, and drug and alcohol-related offences.

    Hasmonean also experienced a drop in suspensions. After 33 pupils were temporarily excluded in the first two terms of last year, 18 students have been suspended in the same period this school year.

    Executive headteacher Andrew McClusky said almost half the suspensions since 2011 were for offences including abuse of social media, cheating in tests and selling items inside school.

    There have been four cases each of racist abuse and bullying - two-thirds higher than the national average in both categories.

    Mr McClusky celebrated the decline in suspensions and said the figure so far this school year was "one of the lowest we have had for a number of years.

    "This is due to a range of measures that we use to encourage good behaviour and a positive attitude to learning at Hasmonean."

    Across the four years, there were 157 suspensions at Hasmonean.

    JCoSS saw suspensions almost treble from 18 to 53 in this academic year. Racist abuse, damage to property, bullying and drug and alcohol-related offences were all recorded for the first time.

    A total of 12 students have been temporarily excluded in the past two years for physical assaults against adults. The three suspensions at JCoSS for racist abuse were proportionally more than double the national average.

    JCoSS headteacher Patrick Moriarty dismissed concerns over the assaults. He said: "The official behaviour categories tend to sound more alarming than they are. Neither of these issues are troublesome at JCoSS."

    He explained that the school had taken a new stance on misdemeanours this year.

    "We have enforced a strict behaviour policy and raised the bar for our expected standards. While our students adapt to these changes, the number of exclusions has risen as expected," he explained.

    The JC understands the school created a position on its senior leadership team at the start of this year to deal specifically with discipline.

    Mr Moriarty said the 12 suspensions for physical assault against an adult were linked to its special needs students.

    JCoSS offers up to 50 places for autistic children via its Pears Special Resource Provision. They make up around six per cent of the total number of students.

    Mr Moriarty said: "Students with an autistic spectrum condition may display physical aggression as a manifestation of extreme anxiety. Staff are trained in the expert handling of such cases, but where any student causes harm to staff we need to make it clear that this is wholly unacceptable."

    King David in Manchester had 118 suspensions in the past four years. The majority were given for defiant behaviour or rudeness towards adults.

    The number of suspensions at the school has fallen, from 56 temporary exclusions in 2011 to nine in 2014.

    King David's chair of governors, Joshua Rowe, said: "We are pleased that the number of exclusions has been significantly reduced over time. The pupils at school are generally extremely well-mannered and behaved."

    King Solomon High School does not use suspensions, but the school has permanently excluded six children since the start of 2012.

    Four of those were for verbal abuse or threatening behaviour against a student. Two pupils were expelled for drug or alcohol-related incidents.

    Yavneh College in Borehamwood saw its fixed-term exclusions increase rapidly this school year. More than twice as many children were suspended compared with last year.

    The total number of days that students have been banned from school this year was 37 - more than double the figure for any of the previous four school years.

    That number was partly attributable to three five-day suspensions, two of which were for drug-related incidents.

    Yavneh headteacher Spencer Lewis said the school rarely used suspensions, and instead encouraged pupils to have a "period of reflection" while remaining in school.

    "I believe that fixed-term exclusions are a deterrent and that pupils understand that, apart from permanent exclusion, this is the most serious punishment that they can get. In this light, we use them sparingly, which I believe is the correct approach," he said.

    Mr Lewis admitted this year had been difficult. He said: "Each year is different and unfortunately there were a couple of unfortunate incidents that occurred in this academic year.

    "It is essential that, as a headteacher, you set firm boundaries for pupils. Sixteen exclusions across an academic year, among 1,000 pupils, is not in fact that many - although more than I would like."

    He said the school's disciplinary record was "outstanding, as is evidenced by Ofsted and local authority inspection.

    "We do not have issues with damage or drugs and alcohol on anything even approaching a regular basis. That there have been a few incidents over a five-year period is actually extremely low. Any exclusions for 'drugs' are not as a result of incidents that have taken place at school."

    King David High School in Liverpool handed out 73 suspensions and one permanent expulsion in the past four years.

    Nearly half of the suspensions - and the expulsion - were for physically assaulting a pupil. The national average in this category is 19 per cent.

    Five suspensions were for racist abuse, and one for a drug or alcohol-related incident. However, the school has experienced a reduction in suspensions, down from 28 in 2012 to 11 last year.

    Manchester Mesivta saw its suspensions decline by two-thirds, from 51 three years ago to 18 in the last school year. There was a reduction in cases of verbal abuse, threatening behaviour towards adults and persistent disruptive behaviour.

    Immanuel College, an independent school in Bushey, suspended four students. Headteacher Charles Dormer said two pupils had been temporarily excluded for "misuse of mobile phone technology", and two for "hurting someone else physically".

    Leeds Jewish Free School, which opened in March last year, has not suspended any students.

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