November 18, 2010 • 5:58 pm

“1,000 pupils sent home from school for assaults on teachers and pupils every day”

Daily Mail headline, 18 November 2010

With the centre-right think tank Centre for Policy Studies releasing a report yesterday which claimed that pupils excluded from schools were suffering “very poor outcomes”, the Daily Mail chose this morning to highlight the perceived problem of indiscipline in the classroom.

It claimed that “Schools Minister Nick Gibb released figures showing that schools were forced to expel or suspend pupils 182,090 times for abuse or physical assaults in the 2008/09 academic year.”

This, it continues, equates to “958 youngsters” who are suspended or expelled for every one of the 190 days in the school year.

Whilst the Mail hasn’t exactly been a model pupil where accuracy is concerned, does it need to do a bit more swotting up where these particular figures are concerned?

Analysis

The figures supposedly “released” by the Schools Minister actually take their provenance from a July statistical release, which did indeed identify 182,090 permanent or fixed term exclusions for physical assault or verbal abuse towards either a teacher or another pupil.

However this does not mean that there were 182,090 pupils sent home in 2008/09. Instead, it identifies the number of such incidents that have lead to an exclusion.

The distinction is an important one, as many pupils involved in these cases were repeat offenders. Across all the exclusions reported in the release, over 46 per cent were accounted for by children who had already been excluded at least once before in the academic year.

Whilst the Department for Education doesn’t collate what proportion of those excluded for verbal or physical abuse suffered more than one suspension over the school year, if it were similar to the proportion of all exclusions, this could instead mean 517 individual pupils excluded every day.

Conclusion

Whilst the distinction between exclusions and pupils excluded may seem small at first sight, the seemingly high rate of repeat offences is important for how this statistic is viewed when used by politicians or reporters.

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