Over 100 pupils suspended in Newry and Mourne school

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

PRIMARY school children were amongst over 100 pupils across Newry and Mourne suspended during the last academic year, it has been revealed.
Three primary schools - St Joseph's Convent in Newry and Dromore Road PS and St Dallan's PS in Warrenpoint, suspended pupils for a range of offences including physical attacks on staff and causing significant damage to property.
At each school the number of suspended pupils was less than five.
The figures were part of an analysis by The Detail of suspension and expulsion figures obtained in response to a Freedom of Information request.
They also show that Newry High School issued the most suspensions of any school in the district with 19 pupils suspended on 40 occasions. St Colman's College suspended 18 pupils a total of 27 times and 16 students were sent home at St Joseph's High School in Newry.
Kilkeel High School issued 15 suspensions on 20 occasions, Abbey Grammar had 13 pupils suspended, while there were six pupils each at St Joseph's High School, Crossmaglen and St Mark's High School Warrenpoint. Five pupils were suspended at Newtownhamilton High and St Louis' Grammar.
St Paul's High School and St Columban's in Kilkeel each issued fewer than five.
The reasons for the suspensions at these schools also included susbstance and alcohol abuse, bullying and verbal abuse of staff.
In total, over 15,500 school days were lost for pupils across Northern Ireland as a result of 6,805 suspensions issued during the 2016/17 academic year.
Northern Ireland's Children's Commissioner Koulla Yiasouma said the number of school days lost by children was "very disturbing". She also called for an end to the use of internal or informal suspensions by some schools which are not included in official suspension statistics.
The Department of Education has confirmed that a pupil should never be suspended from school informally or unofficially. A department spokeswoman said: "There is no legal basis, outside this formal process, for a school to suspend a pupil."
When asked what the department was doing about this issue, she said the department has no role in the day-to-day application of a school's discipline policy and that any parent who wishes to complain should follow the school's complaints policy. If dissatisfied with the outcome of that process, they can complain to the NI Public Service Ombudsman.
Schools set their own discipline policy so the Department of Education said that discipline policies and their application are typically not comparable between schools.
All schools must submit statistics on suspensions and expulsions to the Education Authority. Each suspension period can cover up to five days and some pupils will have been suspended more than once. An individual incident can lead to the suspension of more than one pupil or to a longer period of suspension, with each scenario generating multiple suspensions.
A pupil can be suspended for a maximum of 15 days in a school term or 45 days in any individual academic year.
The Department of Education stressed it has no role in schools setting their discipline policy.
A spokeswoman said: "It is a matter for the school principal and board of governors, in consultation with pupils and their parents, to set a policy which reflects the school's unique circumstances and needs.
“Schools have a legal right to impose sanctions for breaches of discipline, in line with their policy and, depending on the nature of the breach and the pupil's previous disciplinary history."


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