Thirty-five children a day are being permanently excluded

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

With 48,000 pupils now educated in alternative provision and 35 children being permanently excluded every day, a new teacher training charity is seeking to stem the tide of exclusion. Pete Henshaw reports

Every day 35 children are told to leave their school permanently and each of these will go on to cost society around £370,000 due to their poorer outcomes.

It means that the excluded children in any cohort cost around £1.2 billion over their lifetimes in education, health, benefits and criminal justice costs.

The stark figures are set out in a report by think-tank IPPR and come after a recent pledge from education secretary Justine Greening to review and improve standards in alternative provision for excluded pupils.

Figures published in the study show that permanent exclusions halved between 2006/07 and 2012/13, but have risen since then, including a 40 per cent rise in the last three years. Last year, 6,685 pupils were reported as permanently excluded.

The study was published to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Day on Tuesday (October 10) and also to mark the founding of a new charity aimed at training and supporting teachers to work with the most vulnerable students.

The IPPR report warns that it is the most vulnerable children who are likely to be excluded: One in two have a recognised mental health need, they are four times more likely to be from the poorest families, seven times more likely to have SEN, and three times more likely to be interacting with social services.

Furthermore, only one per cent of excluded children get five “good” GCSEs and so struggle to access post-16 training and Apprenticeships.

The problem also seems to be getting worse, with more pupils being excluded year-on-year and with evidence that children are also being pushed out of mainstream schools in “more informal ways” which are not recorded in official figures.

The report states: “Despite only 6,685 reported permanent exclusions last year, 48,000 of the most vulnerable pupils were educated in the alternative provision sector. Still more pupils are not captured in any government data, yet are routinely functionally excluded from mainstream school.”

It adds: “There are more than five times the number of pupils educated in schools for excluded pupils than the number officially reported as permanently excluded each year. A part of the education system which was initially intended to provide temporary schooling for a few students is in reality being asked to provide longer term care and education of a much larger group of pupils.”

It means that currently one in every 200 children is taught each year in alternative provision for excluded pupils. This encompasses around 15,700 students in PRUs, 10,100 being educated in the mainstream system but in off-site PRU provision, and around 22,200 in local authority alternative provision, which can include things like hospital schools.

A key problem is a lack of specialist teachers in the alternative provision sector. The report adds: “New data analysis shows (that) once a child is excluded, they are twice as likely to be taught by an unqualified teacher and twice as likely to have a supply teacher. Meanwhile, a leadership recruitment crisis in schools for excluded pupils has seen leader vacancies double between 2011 and 2016.”

The report argues the case for a new programme to develop expertise and capacity within the alternative provision sector. Called The Difference, this programme has now been founded by the co-author of the report and IPPR associate fellow Kiran Gill.

The new charity will recruit talented teachers to work in alternative provision for two years while giving them Master’s level specialist training. They will then be found leadership positions back in the mainstream in a bid to stem the flow of exclusion.

Ms Gill explained: “Too often the country’s most vulnerable and troubled children become invisible as they are pushed out of the mainstream school system. But by not addressing their challenges when they first appear, we are brewing trouble for later. The majority of today’s prison population were excluded when at school.

“The Difference exists to change this story. We want to raise the status of working with the most vulnerable children. By drawing together best practice from education, psychology, social work, and criminal justice, we will start to develop an evidence-based approach to breaking the link between school exclusion and social exclusion.”

Edward Timpson, the former children’s minister, is among those supporting the new initiative and contributed a foreword to the report.

Also supporting the initiative is Dave Whitaker, executive head at the Springwell Academy Trust, which runs PRUs and special schools. He said: “Recruitment is always a challenge. Too few teachers know about the alternative provision sector and how incredible it is to work there. Our leaders change lives – their work makes the difference between success and failure, hope and hopelessness, in some instances even life and death.”

Earlier this month, the DfE announced that it wants to “transform alternative provision”. It has announced a review with the aim of improving the exclusion rate and encouraging best practice to be shared across the country.

It said it would work “with school leaders, parents and local authorities to ensure (alternative provision) is fit-for-purpose”, although further details are yet to be unveiled of how this work is to be taken forward.

Also, the House of Commons Education Select Committee has recently launched an inquiry into alternative provision, including the reasons why pupils are excluded and the education they receive.


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