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Hardcore facts about Pupil Exclusions

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How can we reduce ‘persistent disruptive behaviour’ in our young people?

A variety of people in the education world have offered different thoughts as to what might have caused the recent increase in exclusions. The reality is that many factors have contributed to the situation... almost a quarter of teachers and school leaders (23 percent) feel they lack confidence when it comes to managing behaviour and exclusions.

Here are some facts you may or may not know about the exclusions landscape in our English schools.

  • From 2006 to 2013, overall exclusions decreased, but they began rising again in 2013. Since then, they have increased every year, and there was a 40 percent rise between 2013 and 2017. The main reason for exclusion, in general, is persistent disruptive behaviour.

  • From 2016 to 2017, students who had SEN, were classified as ‘in need’ or were eligible for free school meals accounted for 78 percent of all permanent exclusions. That’s a significant majority of vulnerable students.

  • In 2015–16, only seven percent of Key Stage 4 students who were permanently excluded and 18 percent of those who received multiple fixed exclusions went on to achieve good passes in English and maths GCSEs.

  • Although the exclusion rate remains low – the latest government figures show the exclusion rate for 2016 to 2017 was 0.1 percent of all student enrolments.

  • In special schools, the most common reason for exclusion (2016/17) was a physical assault against an adult.

40 children are being excluded from schools every day, with 1,255 permanently excluded (2016/17) between 4-11 years old!

Possible reasons for exclusion…

Whenever we talk about exclusions, it’s also important that we mention those who benefit from certain children being removed from the school: the other 29 or so children in the class whose lessons can be significantly less disrupted and whose learning can be much better without the distractions. With progress 8, the EBacc curriculum, off-rolling and now Ofsted’s focus on curriculum dominating proceedings, we all must do better.

Often vocational subjects are used to support the most hard-to-reach students who are most at risk of exclusion. There is much research evidence supporting this approach. One study led by the UCL Institute of Education, for example, examined the effectiveness of alternative provision (AP) in a London local authority. The researchers interviewed 14- to 19-year-olds in AP and found that ‘the majority’ of these young people stated that the main reason they had become ‘disaffected’ with education in mainstream school was the ‘type of subjects on offer’. Over recent years, there has been a significant reduction in support services such as behaviour support teams, specialist tutors and organisations like Connexions.

Is the funding crisis to blame for an increase in exclusions?

People connected to the government, currently, will deny that funding cuts have had anything to do with the rise of exclusions, although in reality, it may be a contributing factor, curriculum choices, social media, and increased mental health will all be dominant forces which schools now face… Regardless of the reasons for it, permanent exclusion has huge implications – the biggest of which are for the child. Many excluded children feel angry about their exclusion and let down by their school and teachers.

The ‘Who’s Left?’ research by Education Datalab also suggests outcomes for students who leave a school’s roll are very poor, with ‘only around 1 percent of children who leave to state alternative provision or a special school achieving five good GCSEs’. Clearly, exclusions are sometimes necessary to protect or help a child, the other children they learn with and the teachers who teach them, but we also know that it may have a huge and potentially very negative impact on the child who has been excluded.

We can also dig into the demographics (the regions of England) and diversity and gender analysis to unpick which of our young people are struggling more than most, but I’ll leave my short analysis as it is for now. What I’d be keen to learn is, if the 5,470 White British pupils excluded are proportionate to pupil population when compared to other pupil groups; the Timpson review (2019) revealed the black Caribbean pupils are 1.7 times more likely to be permanently excluded.

If you’re interested in more of my research and possible solutions.

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