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Tackling exclusion in our schools

As a governor myself, I have insight into how school exclusions are used as the last resort, and how wrenching the decision can be to exclude a pupil from an education setting.

We have a duty to provide the best outcomes for all our learners, but we have to balance this against the safeguarding of others in the setting, as well as the resources we have available to use. We’re all aware of the potential consequences of exclusion, last summer a viral marketing stunt from students under the title ‘Education Not Exclusion’ bought the issue starkly into the media limelight.

It is therefore interesting to see former MP & Minister Edward Timpson’s review own school exclusions which was published in May. Having taken a call for evidence, visited various settings and met with stakeholders from across the sector, he has set out 30 recommendations to drive down the number of exclusions, ‘to improve the standards in schools for every child, creating the conditions in which we can be confident that schools have the support they need to ensure every decision to exclude is lawful, reasonable and fair’.

The full list of recommendations is included in the complete report, and the government has subsequently responded with 4 key commitments, stating it will:

‘1. Always support head teachers to maintain safe and orderly environments for the benefit of all pupils and staff in their schools.

  1. Support schools and their partners to put in place effective interventions to give pupils at risk of exclusion the best chance to succeed.
  2. Provide greater clarity for school leaders about when and how it is appropriate for children to be removed from their school, and make sure there is sufficient oversight when pupils move around the education system.
  3. Support schools and providers of alternative provision so that pupils who have been excluded from school continue to benefit from high quality education.’

In order to achieve this, the government will make schools accountable for the outcomes of permanently excluded children. This is not without its challenges and controversy, especially when working across multiple providers and services.

It is therefore encouraging that the government will also set up a practice programme with the aim to embed effective partnership working between LAs, schools, alternative provision and other partners. This, combined with clearer, more consistent guidance on exclusions being published by summer 2020 will help build confidence we can support excluded learners to achieve in whatever setting is appropriate for them.

The government has also stated it will extend support for alternative provision (AP) – although, as has been noted elsewhere – this isn’t a commitment to additional money, I’d welcome anything that helps raise the profile and expands the work of this lifeline for excluded learners.

We’re never going to eliminate school exclusions entirely, but hopefully we can as a sector safeguard the best interests of our pupils so we can create opportunities for all young people in our care.

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