School exclusions on trial

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On 24 July 2014, the Department for Education (“DfE”) published the ‘School Exclusion Trial Evaluation’ research report. This report, also relevant to academies, set out the findings in relation to the ‘School Exclusion Trial’, which took place between autumn 2011 and August 2014.

What was the Trial?

The schools and local authorities involved in the Trial were tasked with developing ways in which to avoid an exclusion situation.  They were asked to implement different measures that would ultimately improve the education offered to pupils at risk of exclusion. It was hoped that schools being given greater responsibility for meeting the needs of permanently excluded pupils, and those at risk of permanent exclusion, might lead to fewer pupils being excluded overall.

Report findings

The Report suggests that the Trial has had a positive impact in reducing exclusions. By giving schools greater control over what happens to those at risk of exclusion meant that the schools dealt with behavioural problems earlier and were more involved in deciding where the “problem” pupils should be educated. This restorative approach to tackling inappropriate behaviour has resulted in a significant decrease in the number of exclusions in schools involved in the Trial, such as a 90% drop in exclusion rates one school over a three year period.

A positive impact was also found in relation to pupils considered “at risk” of exclusion, with many of those initially placed into this category no longer being so.  This, the Report concluded, was as a result of “the changes in processes and the interventions adopted by schools” which included regularly reviewing a decision that a pupil was at risk, implementing appropriate support for pupils, and if such support was effective, removing the pupil from the “at risk” list.

Overall, teachers at schools involved in the Trial reported that fewer pupils had been permanently excluded in comparison with other schools. The Trial was seen by the DfE as a success, although it remains to be seen whether the Government intends to implement wholesale changes to the existing exclusion regime as a result of the outcomes of this Trial.

For more information. help or advice on education issues please contact Tony McPhillips on 0191 211 7908.