Half-million pound plan drawn up to tackle school exclusions in Portsmouth

MORE than half a million pounds is to be spent on a Portsmouth-wide programme aimed at improving school attendance and reducing exclusions.

The three-year 'relational practice' scheme focuses on promoting relationships between students and school staff and is inspired by similar projects run at schools across the country, including Trafalgar School.

Portsmouth City Council cabinet member for education Suzy Horton approved the funding at her decision-making meeting on Friday.

‘I think this is the most excited I've been about a report that's come to my decision-making meeting,’ she said.

Cllr Suzy Horton

‘Although this comes under an agenda item talking about improving attendance and reducing exclusions, which is absolutely crucial, it's so much bigger than that: it's around the curriculum, it's around the way we treat people at school and how we engage with parents and I'm really optimistic about the impact this can have.’

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The three-year programme will be rolled out to every school in the city over 'at least' three waves and was supported by the city's schools forum earlier this month.

It has been described as 'a whole-system strategic approach to tackling school absence and suspensions' in a report, with a key focus on encouraging better relationships.

Trafalgar School has a number of student 'restorative ambassadors' and runs twice-weekly community circles where a member of staff and 10 children meet.

The council report said the success of this was demonstrated by only two suspensions being recorded in the last year, compared to the national average of 120.

'Portsmouth needs to make a step change in how we address educational inclusion in terms of raising attendance, reducing suspensions and wider wellbeing for children and young people,' it said.

'Relational practice in schools, as seen across the country, and specifically seen locally in Trafalgar School, offers us the opportunity to make that step change and move Portsmouth from the bottom decile nationally for educational inclusion.

'If the impacts seen in relational schools are mirrored across all Portsmouth schools, the impact would be dramatic and in terms of value for money. This would be one of the most cost-efficient investments seen in education in a very long time.'

The next wave of the programme is due to begin in January and coaching sessions will be held for head teachers and other school staff members in coming months.