Fam­ily’s fight to get ex­cluded son back in school

Six-year-old has been at home since last Septem­ber

Manchester Evening News - - FRONT PAGE - By STEVE ROBSON @MENnews­desk

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

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