Family’s fight to get excluded son back in school
Six-year-old has been at home since last September
THE week before Christmas, little Rudi Barnes was writing out cards for all his classmates.
But, unlike the rest of his friends, he wasn’t able to hand them out because he’s not allowed in school.
His parents, Claire Scaife and Carl Barnes, took them in for him, but they fear Rudi is already being left behind.
“He went to a friend’s birthday party and this kid said ‘nobody remembers you in school,’” said Claire, 38.
“He got really upset, it’s heartbreaking.”
Last September, just two days into the new school year, Rudi was permanently excluded from St Malachy’s RC Primary in Miles Platting aged just five.
He hasn’t had another day in school since.
Headteacher Janine Parker took the decision to exclude Rudi after an incident in which he kicked and punched teaching staff, tipped over chairs and a table and pulled displays off a wall.
It was the culmination of a pattern of violent behaviour that began in nursery when he was just three years old.
While they understand why the school made the drastic decision, his parents are distraught and believe more should have been done to keep him in school and get him the help he clearly needs.
The couple say they have no idea where Rudi’s behaviour comes from and that it doesn’t happen at home.
Certainly, Rudi’s exclusion is unusual.
There were just 118 children permanently excluded aged five across the country in 2017-18, according to the Department for Education.
In Manchester, only 13 pupils in total were permanently excluded from statefunded primary schools.
However, as the
M.E.N has reported previously, soaring rates of exclusions has been a serious problem in Manchester schools in recent years.
Rudi has been offered alternative provision at Bridgelea, a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) for permanently excluded children, but it has left the parents in a quandary.
There used to be a Bridgelea site in Gorton, near to their home in Miles Platting, but that closed in 2018.
The main PRU site is in Withington, almost six miles and several bus journeys away for Claire and Carl, who do not have a car and are reliant on state benefits.
Carl, 40, is a full-time carer to partner Claire who has diabetes and is also responsible for getting Rudi’s nineyear-old brother and two-year-old sister to school every day.
The family borrowed a car to take Rudi for a day visit to Bridgelea and, after meeting the headteacher, they believe the school can provide the support he needs.
But the couple feel it is simply ‘impossible’ for Carl to get the other children to school and also take Rudi to Bridgelea.
Carl and Claire were hoping Rudi could get funding from the council for transport from home to school but so far none has materialised. Manchester council says Rudi has been provided with a bus pass for free travel and, ultimately, there is no excuse for him not to be at Bridgelea.
The authority has now threatened to prosecute Carl and Claire for failing to send their child to school, although it has agreed to pause proceedings after the M.E.N requested a comment about the case.
If convicted, the couple face a fine or even a prison sentence.
“They said they will take me to court,” said Carl. “Fine, if that’s what it takes to explain it all, we will go to court.”
Rudi’s violent behaviour began just months after he first started in nursery at St Malachy’s in September 2017.
“They offered him a pear and he doesn’t like pears,” said Carl. “So he threw it at the teacher and cut her lip.
“He was excluded from reception for that.”
A spokesperson for the Diocese of Salford, the organisation that runs St Malchy’s, said: “It would not be appropriate to comment on the individual circumstances of any one pupil.
“At St Malachy’s all decisions are taken in the best interest of our school community.”
Coun Garry Bridges, Executive Member for Children and Schools, Manchester council, said: “I’ve asked education staff to have another urgent look at things to make sure everything possible is being done to help support his parents to get Rudi into school, where he should be, as soon as possible.
“I’ve also asked them to put a temporary pause on any legal processes in relation to his non-attendance at school, whilst we do this.”
Claire Scaife and Carl Barnes with son Rudi