The number of permanent exclusions from York schools rose significantly last year, according to a report.
Education chief told councillors that the continuing recovery from the Covid pandemic had hit behaviour and attendance levels.
There have already been ten permanent exclusions, the most serious sanction a school can give, in the 2022/23 school year – leading to a projected estimate of 40 by the end of the year. In 2018/19, there were just 19 permanent exclusions.
Typically, York’s figures compare positively to national figures and those of similar authorities, but this is now at risk.
School inclusion advisor Dan Bodey told councillors on the children and education scrutiny committee that a number of measures had been taken to reduce the number of permanent exclusions, which ultimately cost the council £370,000 over the rest of a child’s life.
These include £150,000 invested into a support centre at York High School, £100,500 for the school wellbeing service each year until at least 2026 and two new posts at the council to boost school attendance.
Andrew Daley, headteacher at Archbishop Holgate’s and chairman of York schools and academies board, said education leaders were looking “really carefully” at everything that could be done to keep children in school, including extra training for teachers to support children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
“Some of this is still definitely coming out of the pandemic,” he added. “As a headteacher I can say my colleagues are facing some challenges that are perhaps a little bit more marked than they were previously.”
Mr Bodey explained that while attendance at York’s primary schools had recovered well from the pandemic, the figures for secondary schools were not where the council wanted them to be, particularly among more vulnerable children.
In York, nearly half of pupils who receive free school meals are classed as persistently absent – where attendance is below 90 per cent.
Just over 200 students at York secondary schools have below 35 per cent attendance – a “big concern”, according to Mr Bodey.
While the council can issue fixed penalty notices for absence, Mr Bodey said the council was focusing on early intervention to boost attendance and said he wanted to understand if factors such as the cost of living, housing, debt or changes in family situations could be playing their part.
Schools across York are replicating successes seen at Archbishop Holgate’s, where members of the pastoral team offer to pick up or provide breakfast to children who may otherwise miss school.
Mr Daley said schools had never been better resourced when it came to the level of pastoral care available to support pupils.
“Getting them across the threshold is the key thing,” he added.