Thank a teacher Ms Morgan?

The good news is that exclusions across England are continuing to reduce in number: the bad news is that is still remains the same groups being excluded.

A Year 9 boy of Caribbean background is much more likely to be at risk of exclusion, probably for either persistent disruptive behaviour or an assault on an adult or another pupil, than any other group. If he lived in Reading, his chances seem to have been even higher than if he lived in many other areas. Sadly, his younger brother being educated at one of the town’s primary schools might have faced an even greater chance of a fixed term exclusion than almost anywhere else in England. Mixed heritage primary pupils in the town, especially those of White and Caribbean parentage, seem to face even greater risk of being given a fixed term exclusions than might be expected, especially when compared with their classmates.

As there is an almost straight-line relationship between deprivation and the likelihood of being excluded, there must be a question mark about what is happening to the Pupil Premium money in those primary schools most affected? This seems like a legitimate question for scrutiny committees of Councils to ask, even where there is a high proportion of nationally funded schools in their area. This is because pupils with high rates of exclusion are often at greater risk of ending up in the criminal justice system, and many have special needs. All these young people remain the responsibility of a local authority regardless of either who pays for their education or who controls the school that they attend.

Still, the good news is that permanent exclusions have reduced in primary schools from 1,540 in 1997/98 to 670 on 2012/13; and from 10,190 to 3,900 in secondary schools during the same period. In special schools, the reduction is from 570 to just 60 pupils in 2012/13. Sadly, fixed term exclusions have not seen such large reduction falling from 41,300 to 37,870 in primary schools between 2003/04 when the figures first appeared and 2012/13. In secondary schools, the reduction during the same period was from 288,040 to 215,560; and in special schools from 15,170 to 14,100. These figures suggest that there is still a way to go in schools being able to contain challenging pupils within their premises except in the most severe cases.

Although most reasons for exclusion have been marked by reductions in recent years, it is worth noting that physical assaults against adults have risen in the primary sector between 2008/09 and 2012/13; only slightly in the case of permanent exclusion – from 200 to 210, but from 7,000 to 9,080 in the case of fixed term exclusions. Now this may be a case of better categorisation from the ‘other’ category, but it raises the question of whether young teachers entering the primary sector are receiving enough training in this area of their work? In the secondary sector, racist abuse is the category where the reduction is smaller than might have been hoped; and schools will need to be aware of this fact.

Nevertheless, on the basis of these figures, schools seem better able to undertake their primary task of educating all young people than they were in the recent past. Hopefully, the trend will continue with a target of fewer than 5,000 permanent and 250,000 fixed term exclusions being a not unrealistic goal for the future.


5 thoughts on “Thank a teacher Ms Morgan?

  1. Whilst a reduction in exclusions seems like a good thing, that is only the case if it reflects an improvement in either childrens’ ability to control their own behaviour, or schools’ ability to manage behaviour in the classroom, so that disruption to learning is kept at a very low level. If instead it reflects lots of children spending lots of time in internal exclusion that’s not so good for them, although it’s very much preferable to the worst case interpretation that behaviour in lessons has not improved but teachers and schools are putting up with it more. I tend to take a fairly optimistic view on the basis of anecdotal evidence in my local schools but am aware of how flawed this is. Exclusion data needs recording and checking but actually it is the data on disruption to learning that matters, and I don’t think we’re very good at collecting this, perhaps because it’s so much easier to count exclusions – the data collection tail wagging the dog!

    • Exclusions are all we have to go on. i agree, some measure of low level disruption might be helpful to governing bodies to watch for trends. Are new teachers better prepared or less able to cope? Are new issues arising at the primary school level?

      • I haven’t assumed any such thing. There are some measures by which young people do behave better now than previously. However, years of teaching have taught me that permanent exclusions are driven by policy, not behaviour. Make exclusions harder and we have fewer of them, but worse behaviour. Nothing to celebrate.

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