Regular readers of this blog will notice there has been something of an absence of posts during the first part of this month. This means that there has been no discussion of interesting reports such as the one by the Institute of Fiscal studies into how the distribution of funding has changed over time. https://www.ifs.org.uk/uploads/publications/bns/BN242.pdf That report makes for an interesting read, especially when compared with books about education funding written forty years ago, such as ‘depriving the deprived’ in which Prof Tony Travers took part as one of the team investigating education spending over the course of a year in Newham, in the context of the then government financing of education.
However, the education story that most moved me to return to this blog was the one from the BBC about how children can spend long periods in isolation https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-46044394 There are a group of children that a decade ago would have been locked up under Labour’s draconian policy of the period. This was a policy whether it was articulated or not that took several thousand young people off the streets and out of education and into Young Offenders Institutions.
With fewer young people coming into the criminal justice system these days, despite the increase in knife crime, it stands to reason that schools will retain more of these young people and will find their behaviour challenging. Behaviour management has always been the top concern of many schools and the teachers that work within them, despite the shift in funding. As schools were forced to focus on outputs and achievements and less on their social responsibilities, it seems obvious that some schools will look to the greatest good for the greatest number and methods that will allow teachers to teach as many pupils as possible by removing disruptive influences on the learning process.
What was missing for the BBC article was whether isolation was really a room on the road to exclusion or whether pupils were either rehabilitated back into mainstream education or moved to more appropriate settings. If I were a youngster forced to face the wall – albeit without the dunce’s cap of Victorian times – I might see rebelling further as a way to liberation and exclusion: anything might be better than such isolation.
With secondary schools often belonging to many different academy trusts or acting alone, it is difficult to see what body can manage the local solution to this problem. Next week at Oxfordshire’s Cabinet, I have a question – put before the BBC story – about how many pupils each secondary school has brought to the local Fair Access Panel over the past few years. This is to see how the balance of permanent exclusions is playing out across the county. I doubt that the measures announced recently by the DfE in relation to under-performing schools https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-sets-out-plans-to-support-underperforming-schools will help tackle this problem: what is needed is concerted local action managed by a body with the long-term interests of all young people in an area. Now, I wonder what they might be.