Exclusion is a hot topic at the moment.
There is a growing concern about the rising number of school exclusions.
Many commentators have questioned the fairness, even the legality, of many exclusions.
Furthermore, a link has been made between the increasing number of exclusions and the rise in knife crime.
So, what can do schools do to become more inclusive and therefore reduce exclusions?
Exclusion trends in schools
The available data regarding exclusions across the country makes for disturbing reading.
DfE figures show that the rate of permanent exclusions has remained fairly stable.
However, fixed-period exclusions have increased by 8%.
More worrying is the fact that certain groups of pupils are at greater risk of exclusion than others.
For example, pupils eligible for free school meals, pupils with SEND, from ethnic minorities, and boys in Year 9 and above, are all far more likely to be excluded.
Fair and reasonable?
Despite the fact that schools are obligated under the Equality Act to ensure that no pupil is ever excluded unlawfully because of their disability or additional needs, it would appear that not all schools are putting the necessary reasonable adjustments in place to avoid exclusions.
The data also suggests that some schools cannot be using exclusion only as a last resort.
A whole school approach to reducing exclusions
The number of exclusions seen in a school will be underpinned by the whole school ethos and the behaviour policy of the school.
It is the nature of this policy, and how it is implemented, that will largely determine whether the exclusion rate is high or not.
Policies range from what could fairly be described as ‘firm but fair’.
Others take a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach.
The problem with the latter is that it gives little room for manoeuvre for school leaders and little place to go for students either – especially those that struggle to conform.
Taking a one-size-fits-all approach to anything within education is misguided.
However, it is always destined to be ineffective with behaviour.
Although there needs to be fairness and parity in terms of exclusion decisions, reasonable adjustments also really need to be made.
Inflexibility is never helpful and the most effective schools are those that carefully take into consideration the varying needs of individual pupils.
The importance of collaboration and partnership
Especially when pupils have complex needs, it is vital that a school collaborates successfully with other professionals, such as educational psychologists or CAMHS staff.
It’s also important that a school has a strong partnership with parents.
Dialogue between school and parent is imperative.
It is essential that parents are always kept fully informed if their child is at risk of exclusion, and that they understand the legal implications.
What else can be done to reduce exclusions
It’s apparent that firmer guidelines need to be given to schools to ensure that exclusions are used appropriately.
Furthermore, there definitely needs to be more effective collaboration between schools and external agencies.
This would promote better (and earlier) intervention.
When intervention is timely and effective, it should reduce the need for pupils to be excluded.
Schools need to create an inclusive environment that supports pupils.
This includes having clear processes, structures and routines in place.
Finally, schools should be mindful that high quality teaching is still the best deterrent there is against poor behaviour.
Teaching and learning should always be a priority.
1- When is permanent exclusion the only answer?
2- Are school exclusion linked to knife crime?
3- How balanced is your school teaching staff?
4- Character building: Is this what the school curriculum is missing