Why Are School Exclusions Rising?


The Law Of… Finding Solutions For Children In Need

With 6,685 children excluded from school in 2015/2016, an increase from 5,795 in 2014/2015, this is a serious issue facing schools across the country.

Samantha Hale, Associate Solicitor in Education and Community Care, takes a closer look at the issue, explaining the new statutory guidance, the latest exclusion statistics and Channel 4's 'Excluded at Seven' documentary.

Excluded At Seven

Speaking to six young children who have already been excluded from different schools, 'Excluded at Seven' followed their journey and progress at Rosebury School in Kings Lynn. Unlike other schools, Rosebury provides education on a short-term basis for primary school aged children who have been excluded on several occasions from other schools.

The documentary has divided viewers' opinions with some individuals on social media making negative comments about the children and their parents.

"What some fail to see is that the documentary clearly shows the need for more support for these pupils in school", Samantha comments.

"In particular, help is needed for children with special educational needs (SEN), which as the recent exclusion statistics show, are at a far greater risk of being excluded from school." 

The documentary also shows the difference that the correct provision/placement has on these children who have been excluded from school and continue to be at risk of exclusion.

"The truth is that with the right provision, and in some cases placement, these children could have avoided being excluded from school. This is something that schools and the Government need to address."

Troubling Statistics

2015/2016 statistics published by the Department for Education paint a troubling picture: 

  • 6,685 children were permanently excluded from school – this means that there were around 35.2 permanent exclusions per day
  • 339,360 fixed-period exclusions were issued, in contrast to 302,975 in 2014/2015
  • Pupils who had identified SEN accounted for almost half of all permanent exclusions
  • Pupils who had SEN support were nearly 7 times more likely to be permanently excluded than pupils with no SEN
  • Pupils with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or Statement of SEN (SSEN) were almost 6 times more likely to get a fixed-period exclusion than pupils without SEN
  • Pupils eligible for free school meals were 4 times more likely to be excluded than those who weren't eligible
  • The highest rates of exclusions were for pupils of Gypsy/Roma and traveller or Irish heritage
  • Black Caribbean pupils were over three times more likely to be permanently excluded than the school population as a whole
  • Pupils of Chinese or Asian heritage tended to have the lowest rates of permanent and fixed-period exclusions

What Are The Most Common Reasons For School Exclusions? 

According to the statistics, persistent disruptive behaviour is one of the biggest reasons behind the high rates of exclusions in state-funded schools. In 2015/2016, 2,310 students were excluded for this reason.

Another factor contributing to the growing rate of exclusions is physical assault against an adult, with a third of permanent exclusions and one quarter of fixed-period exclusions issued in 2015/2016. 

"It is a huge concern that a pupil is at a greater risk of exclusion if they have SEN, get free school meals or are from a particular ethnic group, and clearly more needs to be done to reduce the risk of exclusion", Samantha explains. 

"It is also worrying that these statistics do not give an accurate figure of the numbers of pupils who are unlawfully excluded from school either permanently or on a fixed-term basis, and often as a result these children do not receive a provision of suitable education."

Guidance On School Exclusions

The law on school exclusions is set out in the Department for Education’s statutory exclusion guidance. The guidance clearly explains that for exclusion to be lawful the child's parents/carers must be notified of any exclusion in writing and also states what information this letter must include. 

The current guidance will remain in force until 31st August 2017, but will be replaced from 1st September 2017 with the updated guidance

Generally, the guidance has stayed the same but some changes have been made, which the new guidance states relate "in particular to provide greater confidence to head teachers on their use of exclusion and to provide greater clarity to independent review panels and governing boards on their consideration of exclusion decisions." 

Samantha comments:  

"Having a child excluded from school is really stressful and worrying for parents, who often don't know where they can turn for help with getting their child back into education." 

"If your child is excluded from school, I recommend you check the Department for Education's statutory guidance and if you have concerns that the exclusion is unlawful speak to one of our Education Law experts." 

"If your child is excluded and is not receiving a suitable full-time provision of education or you'd like to make a school exclusion appeal, we can look at your case and take action to ensure they don't miss out on what they're entitled to."

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