A Nottinghamshire school has defended its methods after councillors raised concerns over its high rate of suspensions.
The fixed-term exclusion rate at Outwood Academy Portland, a large secondary school in Worksop, is under scrutiny from Nottinghamshire County Council.
The school, which has 1,512 pupils, recorded more than 1,000 suspensions in a year – three times as many as any other school in the county.
The figure includes all incidences of suspension – meaning it includes cases where one child has been suspended on multiple occasions.
Fixed-term exclusions, or suspensions, involve a child being temporarily removed from school for up to 45 days in one year.
The school, currently rated as ‘outstanding’ by education watchdog Ofsted, says it has been trying to use suspensions less frequently and has cut the figure by more than a quarter since 2019/20.
Council reports published ahead of a Children and Young People’s Committee meeting on January 17 showed there were 1,279 suspensions recorded at the school in the academic year 2019/20.
Ofsted, had awarded the ‘outstanding’ rating before it visited the school for a ‘monitoring’ inspection in 2019 after inspectors registered concern about “high levels of pupil exclusions”.
Inspectors wrote at the time: “The proportions of pupils excluded once or repeatedly from school are much higher than national averages. Too many disadvantaged pupils, pupils with SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) and boys are excluded.”
The suspension rate at the school – the number of suspensions as a proportion of the overall school population – was the 62nd highest of all schools in the country.
A spokesperson for Outwood Academy Portland said: “Where students receive a short, temporary suspension, due to their unacceptable behaviour, the academy implements a range of strategies to ensure these students are able to excel once they return to the academy, empowering them to adjust their future behaviours and reach the high standards set by the academy.
“Since 2019/20 the number of suspensions has reduced by more than a quarter, and continues to reduce year-on-year, highlighting that the choices students now make, as they prepare to become successful members of the community, are growing ever more positive.”
The council’s report on the issue states: “The number of fixed-term exclusions in Bassetlaw and Nottinghamshire as a whole are significantly impacted by one school, who issued nearly three times as many fixed term exclusions as any other Nottinghamshire school, and account for over a quarter of all exclusions across Nottinghamshire and over a fifth of the total days lost to learning across Nottinghamshire.”
Marion Clay Service Director, Education, Learning and Skills at the council, said: “In relation to permanent exclusions, Nottinghamshire remains below that of the national.
“In Bassetlaw, there is one academy trust in that area where exclusions feature.
“We continuously meet and challenge throughout the system. We raise concerns at the highest level about that.
“We see, at times, positive moves forward. Nonetheless, there is no question that there is one academy trust whose exclusions impact on Nottinghamshire’s data as a whole. That is a concern to officers.”
Councillor Sam Smith (Con) added: “I know that the particular academy in Bassetlaw that is causing us some concern is looking at creating their own alternative provision site, which will keep those children on roll and allow those children to go to that provision when needed.”
The school’s spokesperson added: “Prior to Outwood’s involvement with Portland, the school was in special measures and student outcomes were in the bottom five per cent of the country, with the majority of students leaving without any good qualifications.
“Since becoming Outwood Academy Portland, the school has delivered an outstanding education, with outcomes consistently amongst the top in the country. This has been achieved by having high aspirations for all students and exceptional behavioural expectations; premised around the belief that all students deserve the very best education possible and nobody should have their education jeopardised by poor behaviour.”