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THE effects of Covid-19 lockdowns and extended periods out of school have been blamed for the rocketing numbers of children excluded from Blaenau Gwent schools during the last year.

The figures were discussed at a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s People Scrutiny Committee meeting on Tuesday, September 6.

They show a 20 per cent rise in secondary school exclusions – compared to data from before the coronavirus pandemic.

From September 2021 to April 2022, there were 62 exclusions from Blaenau Gwent primary schools and 551 from secondary schools.

This averaged out at nine exclusions a month in primary schools and 79 from secondary schools during the seven-month period.

Figures from April 2020 to March 2021, a period when children were taught from home for lengthy periods of time, show that in primary schools there had been 25 exclusions, and 135 for secondary schools.

This produced a monthly average of 3.6 exclusions in primary schools and 19.3 exclusions in secondary schools.

From April 2021 to July 2021 there had been 17 exclusions in primary schools and 183 exclusions in secondary school.

This produced a monthly average of 3.4 exclusions in primary schools and 36.6 in secondary schools.

Before the pandemic struck the number of exclusions from April 2019 to March 2020 saw 108 primary school exclusions and 459 secondary school exclusions.

This produced a monthly average of 9.8 and 41.7 exclusions a month respectively.

The increase from this pre-pandemic data, which is for a whole year rather than just seven months, does see an 8.16 per cent rise in exclusions in primary schools and a 20 per cent increase in secondary schools.

Cllr Julie Holt: “The exclusion numbers seem to be really really high.

“I wonder if there is a reason for that and what are we doing to bring those down.

“It seems to have shot up from April 2021.”

Cllr Holt asked whether the 551 figure was a “typo” as it had “shocked” her.

Director or education, Lynn Phillips said:

“There has been an increase in exclusions.

“On the back of covid many authorities did see some emotional behaviour issues emerging.”

Mr Phillips explained that regular information on exclusions would be reported to the DMT (directorate management team) as schools look to reduce the numbers.

Mr Phillips said:

“At the last joint headteacher meeting I highlighted that there will be a focus on exclusions and attendance.

“We will be having conversations with those schools that have particularly high levels of exclusions.”

Mr Phillips told the committee that this would be to make sure that the schools have: “the right tools and skills” to deal with the problems.

He added that targets to reduce exclusions would be also be “in place.”

Cllr Holt said:

“These kids that have got mental health or behavioural problems post-covid need to be supported

“We don’t want children out of school, they had enough time off because of covid and I would like to see them supported across the board.”

Young people and project manager Joanne Sims said: “Just to clarify, it’s very likely that those high numbers are not individual children and young people but multiple exclusions for a smaller number of young people.”

She added that a number of meetings had been held with schools to make sure the council’s youth services are being “used effectively” to tackle this problem.

Further reports to gauge how the campaign to reduce exclusion numbers is going will be received by the committee at future meetings.

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