Permanent school exclusions have risen by 60 per cent in four years, with disturbing consequences for vulnerable young people and wider societyby James Scales / August 14, 2019 / Leave a comment
As we approach GCSE results day, many of England’s excluded schoolchildren perch dangerously on the precipice of failure.
For these individuals, the future looks desperately unwelcoming. Many go to non-mainstream, alternative provision (AP) institutions where under half take GCSEs in English and maths, and just 4.5 per cent get a good pass in both subjects. More than four in 10 students who complete their GCSEs in AP do not progress to sustained education or training, and face instead a treadmill of insecure work. Fifty-eight per cent of young adults in prison were permanently excluded at school.
So, who are these children and why are they being excluded?
The most common reason is persistent disruptive behaviour, followed by physical assault, a range of grouped “other” reasons, and verbal abuse. As unpalatable as these reasons are, what is striking is the extent to which individuals can confound the stereotype of excluded children. Take Sam*, who is in London-based AP. A cascade of poor behaviour sent him crashing out of school, but the problem was triggered by his mother’s death and father’s estrangement. He is a timid, nervous character, nothing like you might expect.
What seems to unite all exclusions is a sombre backstory involving years of complex, unresolved challenges: crumbling home environments, personal trauma, emotional upheaval, caring responsibilities, the list goes on. And pupils receiving support for special educational needs are around six times more likely to be permanently excluded than their peers.
In this context, it is alarming that more and more children find themselves out of mainstream education. In the last four years, permanent exclusions have shot up by 60 per cent. Fixed-term exclusions and home-schooling have also climbed, as has the number of children taught in AP—now around 53,000.
The exclusions data is not transparent and it is hard to know exactly what is driving these trends. What we do know is that many teachers feel ill-equipped to manage complex behaviour and find the right support. In a minority of cases, schools also exclude to boost performance, but we should be careful not to overplay this; overwhelmingly, teachers go into teaching to nurture human potential, not to discard it.
What should be done?
First, we must avoid false dichotomies. The debate on exclusions has become dangerously polarised. Broadly speaking, one side argues that strict behaviour and high…