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Excluded pupils being failed by the education system, say MPs

Wednesday 25th July 2018

Today, Parliament's Education Committee expressed concerns about the over-exclusion of pupils and at the alarming increase in 'hidden exclusions' where children are internally isolated, or illegally excluded, in its report:  Forgotten children: alternative provision and the scandal of ever increasing exclusions.

The report highlights that vulnerable children, including those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), are more likely to be excluded and that the numbers of children with SEND excluded are increasing. This is also reflected in calls to our helpline and our campaign against illegal exclusions, which found that among disabled children who experienced illegal exclusion, 22 per cent were excluded every week.

The report said that excluded children usually end up in alternative provision (AP), which it said was a badly neglected area, so children are frequently left without adequate support. The committee found excellent examples of where AP exists - however provision is far too variably and patchy. AP is also branded as a punishment or last resort, although for some children it is genuinely the best option.

The report outlined a number of other concerns including:

  • Schools justify permanently excluding pupils with SEND, by claiming that AP will provide the support they need, and exclusion make it quicker for them to get an assessment. The result is that many are left in AP for long time periods while the assessment is done, and their needs are not necessarily met.
  • Excluding pupils can save thousands of pounds for the school, schools could be deliberately not identifying pupils as having SEND, as that would make it harder to permanently exclude them.
  • Zero-tolerance policies were identified as a particular issue, as they remove flexibility for accommodating behaviours caused by a pupil's SEND. They often cause pupils with SEND to be excluded over minor infractions.
  • The illegal practice of "off-rolling", and how schools are encouraged to exclude pupils with SEND out of concern for the school's overall academic results.

The report stated, "there appears to be a lack of moral accountability on the part of many schools and no incentive to, or deterrent to not, retain pupils who could be classed as difficult or challenging".

The report recommends a "Bill of Rights", including:

  • Schools to have an inclusive attitude and not use exclusions unnecessarily.
  • Schools should publish their exclusion rates each term, including for pupils with SEND.
  • Re-balance the exclusions process, as at present it is biased towards schools, and against parents and pupils.
  • Parents and pupils to receive an independent advocate for exclusions of more than five days per school year.
  • Better information about alternative provision, including local authorities publishing a list of all alternative providers.
  • Independent Review Panels should have the power to make schools reinstate pupils.
  • Improve AP provision, collaboration between mainstream schools and AP settings, and close the loophole which means 16-18 year olds are prevented from accessing AP (despite being legally obliged to be in education).

See our advice and support on exclusions. Also see our information on admissions to school and handling absence from school.

If you need advice or information about your situation, please contact our education advice specialists on 0808 808 3555 or post a query on Facebook.