Parents speak out over exclusion increase at Woodberry Down academy
PUBLISHED: 11:44 21 October 2013 | UPDATED: 10:50 31 October 2013
A new headteacher has been accused of being too "heavy-handed" after issuing more than 30 exclusions in just six weeks.
Parents of pupils at Skinner’s Academy in Woodberry Down have expressed concerns that principal Tim Clark is taking an unnecessarily stringent approach to discipline.
One parent, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “I’m all for discipline but children need to have a chance to explain what’s happened before they are excluded. I don’t think it should be used as widely as it is. It’s a heavy-handed approach, like a military-style boot camp.
“There needs to be understanding about what an individual needs rather than lumping kids into a one-size-fits-all approach.”
Rebekah Wicks, of Walsham Close, Stamford Hill says her son had been excluded from the academy after asking his teacher why he was being sent to a special room during a lesson.
In a letter to Mrs Wicks, the school said he had been excluded for “being rude and having a mobile phone”.
Mrs Wicks, whose daughter Olivia died of a brain tumour in June, said: “My son is a good student and his grades are good. They have not given him a fair chance.”
She claimed that her son had been excluded from school completely for a week and has been told by other parents whose children have also been disciplined in this way that he faces being kept in isolation in school for a further two weeks.
Mr Clark, who has stood as a Conservative party candidate twice, including against former home secretary David Blunkett, defended his approach saying: “We have changed the culture of the academy, but the overwhelming view of parents, pupils and staff has been extremely positive.
“The vast majority feel that the academy is a much happier and more purposeful learning environment.
“We will not tolerate bullying nor rudeness to staff. Our rules are very clear and we stick to them.”
Mr Clark denied that pupils are kept from classes for weeks, saying: “The suggestion that lots of pupils are out of lessons for three weeks is completely wrong.
“Pupils are not just sent straight back to lessons but reintegrated, with additional work being done on how to improve behaviour.
“This may take a day or two – only when a pupil hasn’t improved his or her behaviour would it take longer, but it is usually only a few days at the most.
“The aim is to help the pupil improve his or her behaviour and try to prevent them from reoffending. Again, the evidence is that this approach appears to work.”
When asked about the number of exclusions issued, Mr Clark neither confirmed nor denied the number.