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  1. ITV Report

Calls for reduction in number of school exclusions after Government report highlights inconsistency in policy

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Allegra Stratton

Calls have been made for a reduction in the number of exclusions after a root-and-branch review found "too much variation" in the application of policies around how children can be kicked out of school.

Education Secretary Damien Hinds said the Government would begin implementing the 30 recommendations made by former Conservative minister Edward Timpson following his long-awaited report into school exclusions, published on Tuesday.

The review suggests making sure schools are accountable for exam results of pupils they exclude and tackles off-rolling - the controversial practice of removing children from the school register without formal exclusion.

Speaking to ITV News, Mr Timpson said the report's aim was to get to the bottom of why "certain groups of children" are more likely to be excluded from mainstream education" and to tackle the issue by "supporting schools to make decisions about when exclusions may or may not be needed."

The review highlights variation in exclusions practice across different schools, local authorities and certain groups of children. It concludes while there is no optimal number of exclusions, action needs to be taken to ensure permanent exclusions are only used as a "last resort".

In 2016/17, 85% of mainstream schools did not expel a single pupil, but 0.2% expelled more than 10 pupils in the same academic year. 78% of permanent exclusions were issued to children who had special educational needs (SEN), or classified as in need or eligible for free school meals.

Certain ethnic groups, including Bangladeshi and Indian pupils, have lower rates of exclusion than White British pupils.

78%
Amount of permanent exclusions to children with special education needs
40
average number of children excluded from British schools on a daily basis

The analysis also found some ethnic groups, such as Black Caribbean and Mixed White and Black Caribbean pupils, experienced higher rates, after controlling for other factors.

Overall, 0.1% of the eight million children in schools in England were permanently excluded in 2016/17 - an average of 40 a day - and the highest figure since 2007/8 (0.11%). This represented a year-on-year rise since 2013/14.

Fixed-term exclusions, also known as suspensions, are also on the increase: up from 3.5% in 2013/14, to 3.88% the following year, 4.29% the year after and 4.76% the following year.

Children excluded from schools often feel the measures taken against them are unfair. Speaking to ITV News, Josh Pritchard, who attends a specialist school in Hampshire, said he was asked to leave mainstream education for instances he felt were minor.

He said: "Once I picked up a bit of wood and they excluded me for that."

Another exclusion saw him asked to leave for having a pair of scissors in his pencil case.

Students in a classroom at a Pupil Referral Unit. Credit: ITV News

Mr Timpson said: "No parent sends their child off to school believing they will end up being excluded. But when this does happen we all need to be confident we have a well-functioning system that makes sure no child slips through the net.

"Exclusion from school should never mean exclusion from education.

"Throughout this review I have found too much variation in the use of exclusions and too many missed opportunities for children to remain in the education that best suits their needs.

"Although I did see examples of schools using exclusions appropriately and effectively, there is clear room for improvement and everyone - from teachers and parents, the Department for Education and Ofsted, to local authorities and children's services - has their part to play.

"Most importantly there must be safeguards in place for when things go wrong so that we can keep children on the path towards the successful future they all deserve."

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said the education system must allow children to realise their potential. Credit: PA

The Department for Education welcomed the review and agreed to all 30 recommendations in principle.

It confirmed that it will consult on how to make schools accountable later this year.

Mr Hinds, said: "Every child deserves an education that fosters ambition and provides the knowledge and skills they need to make the most of their potential.

"That must include children at risk of exclusion or those that have been expelled.

"This pivotal review demonstrates widespread good practice in support for students and in the use of exclusions, and I will continue to back head teachers in creating safe and orderly environments that enable teachers to teach and provide the right learning conditions for pupils - and sometimes exclusion will be the final option."

He added: "Too many children can fall through the cracks, so I want schools to be accountable for the pupils they exclude, alongside tackling the practice of illegal off-rolling.

"This is not an easy answer, but it is one that will help the most vulnerable children in our society to fulfil their potential."

An average of 40 students a day are excluded from schools in Britain. Credit: ITV News

The review comes as work continues across government to tackle serious violence crime and ensure that every young person is safe and free to fulfil their potential.

Mr Timpson writes in the executive summary that it would be wrong to suggest that there is evidence that exclusion of any kind causes crime or that preventing the use of exclusion would, in itself, prevent crime.

However, he adds that it is "right to recognise exclusion as one indicator, among others, of a higher risk of exposure to and involvement in crime, and we should therefore fully consider the form and content of the education a child receives following exclusion, in efforts to prevent and tackle serious violence".