Exclusion review: Call for a focus on schools that ‘off-roll’ students

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
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My child is diagnosed with PDA, ADHD emotional dysregulation and pervasive anxiety and attends a ...

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Should schools that “off-roll” vulnerable pupils in a bid to improve their exam results face financial penalties?

This is one question that children’s commissioner Anne Longfield hopes the government’s review of school exclusion will tackle.

The review was announced last week by the Department for Education (DfE). It is to be led by Edward Timpson and will report to education secretary Damian Hinds and prime minister Theresa May. A call for evidence has been published.

In 2015/16, 0.08 per cent of children were permanently excluded from state-funded schools in England. This amounts to 6,685 pupils – around 35 a day according to official DfE figures. This is up from 5,795 in 2014/15.

Meanwhile, there were 339,360 temporary exclusions in 2015/16 – around 1,790 a day. This is up from 302,975 in 2014/15.
However, the figures show that the exclusion rates for some children remain much higher and this is to be one focus of the review.

Black Caribbean pupils, for example, were permanently excluded at three times the rate of White British pupils. White Irish Traveller and Gypsy/Roma pupils had by far the highest rates of both fixed period and permanent exclusions.

In a letter setting out the terms of reference, the Department for Education states: “The review will consider the exclusion of groups of pupils that are identified in the national data as more likely to be excluded. For example, those ethnic groups highlighted in the Ethnicity Facts and Figures (data), pupils who are eligible for free school meals, or have been eligible for free school meals in the last six years, pupils with SEN, looked after children, and children in need.”

Illegal exclusions have been a matter of concern for some time. An inquiry by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England in 2013 found that thousands of students were being illegally excluded through techniques such as being placed on “extended study leave”, part-time timetables, or in “inappropriate and questionable quality alternative provision”.

Furthermore, the report – Always Someone Else’s Problem – found that children with special needs are often being sent home if their carer or a teaching assistant is unavailable (Thousands of students are being illegally excluded, SecEd, April 2013: http://bit.ly/13uXHFM). As such, the current children’s commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, has welcomed the review and wants to see some “bold solutions” in its final report.

She said: “I have become more and more concerned that some schools are gaming the system by off-rolling some of the most vulnerable children – including some with SEND – into alternative provision or home education to try and improve the school’s overall exam results. Our own research suggests there are tens of thousands of children we cannot be certain are being educated at all.

“I will be making the case for the government to look at bold solutions, including looking at the possibility of financial penalties for schools, to ensure this practice stops and does not become an accepted part of the school system.”

Recent research from the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) shows that there were 49,187 children missing from education at some point in 2016/17, with a fifth of these being children who were eligible for free school meals the last time they were in education and 15 per cent being children known to social services (Almost 50,000 children missing from education, SecEd, January 2018: http://bit.ly/2pmXVBQ).

The potential abuse of the exclusions system is covered in the DfE terms of reference, which state that the review should consider what schools do to ensure that “their behaviour and exclusion practices are compliant with duties under the Equality Act 2010”. It will also look at the “guidance in place to ensure effective use of exclusion and the safeguards to ensure exclusions do not disproportionately affect certain groups of pupils”.

At the same time, the DfE has said that the exclusions review “will not seek to curb the powers headteachers have to exclude, but will examine the ways in which such powers are exercised”. It will also consider “best practice in managing exclusions and interventions across local areas, such as the use of managed moves and fair access protocols”.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “The decision to exclude a student is never taken lightly and always as a last resort. School leaders need the autonomy to decide when and how to exclude students in order to protect the health, safety, education or wellbeing of other pupils and staff in the school.

“This is an area where prevention is better than cure but school budgets are at breaking point so many of the measures that schools take to ensure good behaviour and adequate support for pupils are under threat.

“We’ve seen cuts in local authority services such as behaviour support teams, combined with reductions in pastoral care. Speech and language therapists for pupils with additional needs are disappearing. In addition, there are frequently delays in providing mental health support for pupils who need it. Schools have also seen big cuts to high needs funding for pupils with identified SEND.

“Schools can’t do it on their own. To avoid exclusions, they need support from the other local services around them. The issues that underpin exclusions reach far beyond the school gates, so schools need access to expert resources to help them support at an early stage those students who need more help.”

The call for evidence closes on May 6 and Edward Timpson’s report will be available by the end of 2018.

  • Full details of the review, call for evidence and terms of reference are available via http://bit.ly/2FREirD

My child is diagnosed with PDA, ADHD emotional dysregulation and pervasive anxiety and attends a special school.

He was permenantly excluded from mainstream now attends a special school and has been excluded for 4 days in the past two weeks.

Exclusions for throwing a table violence threatening behaviours. What im concerned over is my son is being punished for teachers failing to spot triggers ignoring triggers or infact esculating situations by going hands on too fast or standing infront of children when in flight mode or putting children back into areas that theyve just removed themselves from.

Exclusion is not the answer training of staff the correct amount of teachers and deesculation and PDA awareness and the strategies used are key.

If you exclude a pupil you reinforce the unwanted behaviour becsuse for many children with autism PDA home is there safe space where they want to be and if you exclude and exclude the child sees the pattern and gets a key home missing education which they are entitled too.

Other schools are cutting pupils cirticulums down to part time even when child has diagnosis. Our kids are entitled to a full time education by law and are being failed and no one is being held to account

Inclusion is key.

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