UK: Education Bulletin - Summer 2019

Last Updated: 8 July 2019
Article by Chris Billington

The key findings and recommendations of the Timpson Review of School Exclusion and the impact on exclusions and behaviour management in practice.

The Timpson Review of School Exclusion, commissioned to explore how head teachers use exclusion in practice and why some groups of pupils are more likely to be excluded, includes findings and recommendations that are important not just for mainstream, special and alternative provision but also for health and social care agencies and the government

Key findings of the Timpson Review of School Exclusion

The key findings, summarised below, provide a frame of reference for the recommendations that follow

Outcomes

Of concern is the fact that the outcomes of excluded children are often poor with just 7% of children who were permanently excluded and 18% of children who received multiple fixed period exclusions in 2015/16 achieving good passes in English and maths GCSEs. Only 4.5% of pupils educated in Alternative Provision ("AP") in 2015/16 achieved a good pass in English and maths at GCSE. Excluded children are also at higher risk of becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training) and a victim or perpetrator of crime and are vulnerable to exploitation. There is therefore a pressing need for high quality provision for excluded pupils to ensure they achieve their full potential and keep them safe.

Vulnerable groups

The groups who more likely to be excluded include:

  • children with special education needs or and/or a disability ("SEND"), particularly children with social, emotional and mental health ("SEMH") including in relation to attachment and trauma
  • children who have been supported by social care including Children in Need, looked after children and those who have left local authority ("LA") care via adoption, Special Guardianship or a Child Arrangement Order
  • Irish, Black Caribbean, Gypsy and Roma children; and
  • children eligible for free school meals, boys and older pupils.

Children who have several characteristics are at even greater risk of exclusion.

Given the range of factors that lead to poor behaviour and exclusion, schools and health and social care agencies therefore need to work together, before and after exclusion, to give children the best chance to succeed.

EHC plans

This is reinforced by the fact that children with EHC plans are 2.8 times more likely to have a fixed period exclusion, when compared with all children, and that exclusion is sometimes used as a tool to ensure a child is assessed for an EHC plan, or given a place outside mainstream school, rather than primarily as a tool to manage poor behaviour. This has the knock on effect of taking AP places at the cost of those in need of the particular support that AP provides.

Variations in practice

Data for 2016/17 shows that 54% of permanent exclusions were in the quarter of highest excluding LAs and only 6% in the quarter that excluded the fewest. Meanwhile, 85% of mainstream schools issued no permanent exclusions with 0.2% of mainstream schools issuing more than 10. Rates of fixed period exclusion also vary across LAs, from 0% to 21.42%. These differences are driven by issues of place (the particular challenges in an area, such as levels of deprivation and gang activity) and policy and practice (the particular means of managing behaviour and thresholds for exclusion).

Guidance

Head teachers also report that current DfE guidance is unclear, leading to variation in practice. This is likely to explain, in part, the range of exclusion rates between schools.

School type

The Review did not find that school types (academies or otherwise) are, as a group, using exclusion strategically to improve results. In fact, the Review found that the type of school will not, in itself, determine how well exclusion is used.

Exclusion in all but name

Of concern, though, is that children have been made to leave their school without access to the formal exclusion process, sometimes perversely incentivised by current accountability measures. This includes children sent home from school for a period of time with no exclusion being recorded, referred to as 'informal exclusion'. It also includes schools that encourage parents to remove their child from school, sometimes under the threat of permanent exclusion, referred to as 'off-rolling'. Both 'informal exclusion' and 'off rolling' risk leaving children in unsuitable education or with no education at all, exposed to criminal activity, gangs and other exploitation. The government therefore needs to understand the scale and impact of the problem. While tackling this could result in a rise in formal exclusions, this should be seen as positive progress.

Special schools

For special schools, the rate of permanent exclusion is lower than mainstream, at 0.07%, while the fixed period exclusion rate is higher, at 13.3%. Special schools also reported poor co-ordination with other schools in their area with a lack of places in specialist settings for pupils with particular needs, often those more likely to be excluded.

Alternative provision

AP also report that places taken by permanent exclusions divert resources from implementing preventative support. Some AP settings are also under pressure to fill places early in the year, where demand is high, meaning they are unable to take referrals later in the year for those in greater need. Meanwhile, there is concern that children are being directed to AP, rather than being formally excluded, meaning the parent or carer does not have access to the independent review process that is available on exclusion. The condition of some AP premises is also inadequate.

Independent review

According to the Review, data also shows that uptake of the independent review, available to parents and children following a permanent exclusion, is low. This may reflect that parents do not want to, or do not believe they have the grounds to, challenge exclusion or they lack the information or confidence to do so. Whatever the position, it is imperative that governing bodies of schools and academy trusts understand their legal obligations regarding independent reviews and exclusions more generally. For further detail, please see our recent article A guide to the exclusions procedure available here

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The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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