Bad news on exclusions

Exclusions from school rose again in 2016-17, confirming the upward trend in exclusions that commenced in 2013/14, in both the primary and secondary sectors. Exclusion rates are still falling in the special school sector for permanent exclusions although they seemed to have stopped falling for fixed term exclusions. DfE Data for 2016-17 was published today at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/permanent-and-fixed-period-exclusions-in-england-2016-to-2017

In terms of trends, there doesn’t seem to be a lot that is new. Years 9-11 are the key danger points where a pupil, usually a boy and more likely with certain other characteristics in terms of ethnicity, free school meals and probably attainment, is likely to reach the end of the road as far as the school is concerned and end up being excluded. How hard schools try to deal with these pupils is shown by the fact that despite the worsening of Pupil Teacher Ratios, Persistent Disruptive Behaviour remained the most common reason for permanent and fixed-term exclusions. Such persistent disruptive behaviour accounted for 2,755 (35.7 per cent) of all permanent exclusions in 2016/17. This is equivalent to 3 permanent exclusions per 10,000 pupils and was up from 2,310 the previous year. Few pupils still seem to be excluded for single dramatic events compared with those where schools have struggled to contain poor behaviour over a period of time.

However, there were rises in permanent exclusions in almost all categories except for bullying, although the numbers in that group are too small to be confident of a real reduction, especially as fixed term exclusions for this reason did increase over last year’s figure.

There is considerable variation in the permanent and fixed period exclusion rate at local authority level. The regions with the highest overall rates of permanent exclusion across state-funded primary, secondary and special schools were the West Midlands and the North West (at 0.14 per cent). The regions with the lowest rates were the South East (at 0.06 per cent) and Yorkshire and the Humber (at 0.07 per cent). However, the region with the highest fixed period exclusion rate was Yorkshire and the Humber (at 7.22 per cent), whilst the lowest rate were in Outer London (3.49 per cent). These regions also had the highest and lowest rates of exclusion in the previous academic year.

The upward trend in exclusions in the primary sector is especially worrying, especially the increase in permanent exclusions, albeit they remain at a very low rate. As the primary school population peaks and then starts to reduce in number, it is to be hoped that exclusion will also start to fall. Better use of Education and Health Care Plans rather than exclusions might also be beneficial, especially if the NHS can start to recognise children where early intervention might assist in their education and social behaviour in schools.

The rate of fixed period exclusions across all state-funded primary, secondary and special schools increased from 4.29 per cent to per cent of pupil enrolments in 2015/16 to 4.76 per cent in 2016/17, which is equivalent to around 476 pupils per 10,000. However, this is still well below for the early years of the century. High levels of exclusions in those years also resulted in record numbers of young offenders being locked up in prisons. We must not return to those levels that were one of the more disappointing outcomes of that period in the nation’s education history.

 

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Schools need to support not exclude adopted children

Some months ago I raised concerns about children being taken into care having to wait for long periods of time before being offered a school place when their foster placements ws some distance from any previous school. Such treatment of vulnerable children is not a good reflection on our education system. Sadly, this is still happening.

Now the BBC has published the results of a survey by Adoption UK into exclusions of adopted children, another vulnerable group of young people. This report makes for grim reading as well. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-41915775

Adoption UK’s research estimates adopted children can be up to 20 times more likely to be permanently excluded than their peers.

The charity surveyed 2,084 of its members and found that of those with adopted children at school in 2015-16, 12% had had a fixed-term and 1.63% a permanent exclusion.

This compares with a rate of 4.29% for fixed and 0.08% for permanent exclusions across all state schools in England.

Adoption UK says that while its survey is indicative rather than scientific, it raises serious concerns.

Their web site is at: https://www.adoptionuk.org/  but I couldn’t find the survey when I looked.

The fact that there is a Minister of State for Children and Families should be a help in terms of government policy, but what is needed is a commitment to take action to support the education of vulnerable children at traumatic stages in their lives and a recognition that the effects can be long-lasting.

The dual and increasingly separate maintained and academy systems aren’t working for these children in many cases, as one group doesn’t have the money needed to offer effective help and the other often doesn’t seem to have the will, even though it has the ability to raise the cash.

I trust schools to do the best for ‘nice’ children supported by their parents, but I want them also to be supported to handle the more challenging of our young people as they set out on their lives. Exclusion and wiping your hands of the problem isn’t the answer.

If Paddington Bear can be thought of as a metaphor for an adopted child and can be falsely accused in the latest film of a crime he didn’t commit, then let us all pause for a moment and reflect upon not just our judgement, but also our treatment of adopted children. Sometimes being excluded must feel like being treated as a criminal and having done something wrong.

The adoption process in England is now being reorganised into larger regional agencies, but local authorities will still have to deal with the on-going responsibilities that result. From April 2018 the Virtual Schools will take on extra responsibilities for adopted children, on top of their already heavy workloads. But, as Adoption UK say, school staff should have better training around the needs of adopted children and for better support for these children throughout their schooling.

There is a further worry that the true extent of problem of exclusion is being masked because schools are regularly asking adoptive parents to take their children home and keep them out of school, without recording them as exclusions.

This is an area that Ofsted needs to inspect across a range of schools to uncover exactly what is happening.

 

 

Rising number of exclusions: a worrying trend

The DfE has published the data for exclusions during the 2015/16 school year. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/permanent-and-fixed-period-exclusions-in-england-2015-to-2016 The number of permanent exclusions across all state-funded primary, secondary and special schools has increased from 5,795 in 2014/15 to 6,685 in 2015/16.  The number of fixed period exclusions across all state-funded primary, secondary and special schools has increased from 302,975 in 2014/15 to 339,360 in 2015/16. This corresponds to around 1,790 permanent exclusions per day in 2015/16, up from around 1,590 per day in 2014/15.

These figures are not good news for the government, as it appears that the improvement seem over the last few years is now being undone. The DfE does need to look behind the headline numbers at the schools responsible for the increase and also if the increase has also continued on into 2016/17, where data for the first term should be available.

The problems of this type that affect a relatively small number of schools raise questions about the use of a national funding formula. In Medway, for instance, virtually all the exclusions are in non-selective schools, with many of the local selective schools not excluding any pupils at all. But, if each type of school receives the same funding component to spend on behaviour management, is that balanced off by adjustments in the other direction elsewhere in the budget.

It is these sorts of issues that create the debate about both hypothecation and unrestricted budgets on the one hand and our notions of equality on the other hand. Put both strands together and you have an interesting debate that despite the Pupil Premium does seem to me to be skewed towards a simplistic notion of equality mitigated only by the traditional view that London is an expensive place to live and work in.

Persistent disruptive behaviour remains by far and away the most common reason for both fixed term and permanent exclusions: schools have just come to the end of their tether with the pupil. How long the tether is may differ from school to school, as might the attitude to what is unacceptable behaviour, as schools try to raise the bar on standards of acceptable behaviour. There is a worrying high figure of around 20% where the reason for an exclusion is coded as ‘other’. This is not really acceptable. It may mean there is more than one reasons such as a pupil with generally persistent disruptive behaviour, but the actual exclusion is triggered by another event such as verbal or physical abuse to another pupil or staff member.

As ever, having special need, being on Free School Meals, or from a non-majority ethnic background are all additional risk factors in the likelihood of being excluded. This is despite several years where teacher preparation schemes were supposed to support teachers in schools with large numbers of likely at risk pupils.

Despite concerns in the press and elsewhere, exclusions for either bullying or racist abuse are minimal in the overall totals, although some exclusions may be coded under other headings even where pupils have exhibited this type of anti-social behaviour.

Years 8-10 still account for around 40% of all exclusions, so it is good to see the recent statement about slowing down the timetable for all to study the EBacc. I am sure a better look at the curriculum for this age group can help reduce exclusions where students are being forced to study subjects they no longer value. As ever, more boys are being excluded than girls, especially in terms of permanent exclusions.

More Exclusions in 2014/15

The government has just published the latest data on exclusions, both fixed term and permanent. The evidence covers the year 2014/15. Sadly, it shows a rising trend in permanent exclusions in both the secondary and special school sectors. Secondary schools also had an increased rate of fixed term exclusions.  https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/permanent-and-fixed-period-exclusions-in-england-2014-to-2015 These figures are disappointing for both these sectors.

As the Statistical Release comments:

The greatest increase in the number of permanent exclusions was in secondary schools, where there were 4,790 permanent exclusions in 2014/15 compared to 4,000 in 2013/14. This corresponded to an increase in the rate of permanent exclusions from 0.13 per cent in 2013/14 to 0.15 per cent (15 pupils per 10,000) in 2014/15. The rate of permanent exclusions in special schools also increased between 2013/14 and 2014/15, from 0.07 per cent to 0.09 per cent but remained the same in primary schools at 0.02 per cent.

The number of fixed period exclusions in state-funded primary, secondary and special schools has increased from 269,480 in 2013/14 to 302,980 in 2014/15. This corresponds to an average of around 1,590 fixed period exclusions per day in 2014/15, up from an average of 1,420 per day in 2013/14.

This means 170 more pupils per day excluded on fixed term removal from school, mostly for a day and 790 more permanent exclusions. So, around 1,000 more pupils weren’t being taught on any one day by the end of the 2014/15 school-year.

As to the reasons for exclusions, the Bulletin comments;

Persistent disruptive behaviour remained the most common reason for permanent exclusions in state funded primary, secondary and special schools – accounting for 1,900 (32.8 per cent) of all permanent exclusions in 2014/15. This is equivalent to two permanent exclusions per 10,000 pupils. It is also the most common reason for fixed period exclusions. The 79,590 fixed period exclusions for persistent disruptive behaviour in state-funded primary, secondary and special schools made up 26.3 per cent of all fixed period exclusions, up from 25.3 per cent in 2013/14. This is equivalent to around one fixed period exclusion per 100 pupils. Physical assault against an adult is the most common reason for fixed period exclusion from special schools – accounting for around a third of permanent exclusions and a quarter of fixed period exclusions in 2014/15.

It might be worth looking at whether better training might help in the special school sector, especially if a large number of the exclusions for assaults were on relatively new and inexperienced staff. The high level of’ persistent disruptive behaviour’ is also worrying. As school rolls increase and class sizes become larger, what might have been containable in a smaller class become unmanageable in the new larger group? Nevertheless, many primary schools do still manage not to exclude any pupils all year.

It is slightly surprising that Yorkshire & the Humber region that doesn’t generally have teacher recruitment problems should feature amongst the regions with the highest percentage of fixed term exclusions, whereas Outer London, beset by recruitment challenges, is amongst the lowest, but it schools are also among the most successful at GCSE. There are issues to unravel in these figures.

More banned from schools

What’s the matter with schools on the south coast? An analysis of the recently published data on exclusions in the 2014-15 school year reveals that five of the eleven south coast authorities were in the worst 20 local authority areas for fixed term exclusion in the primary sector. Three of the smaller authorities, Poole, Bournemouth and Southampton had among the worst rate of fixed-term exclusions in the primary sector of all 151 authorities. Only Dorset and the Isle of Wight bettered the national average among south coast authorities.

At the secondary level, the Isle of Wight has one of the highest rates for fixed-term exclusions, but other authorities seem to fare better with their older children. Of course, the data cannot explain the reasons behind why schools in the south have performed so badly last year. Is it an effect of the recruitment challenge in primary schools; is it a result of the increase in pupil numbers affecting the size of schools or is it a lack of behaviour management skills among new teachers entering the profession. Is the last, why aren’t other areas affected? Could it be the first signs of budgetary pressures affecting some schools?

More worrying was the fact that 2014-15 saw an increase in exclusion rates. As the Statistical Bulletin noted: ‘The greatest increase in the number of permanent exclusions was in secondary schools, where there were 4,790 permanent exclusions in 2014/15 compared to 4,000 in 2013/14. This corresponded to an increase in the rate of permanent exclusions from 0.13 per cent in 2013/14 to 0.15 per cent (15 pupils per 10,000) in 2014/15.https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/permanent-and-fixed-period-exclusions-in-england-2014-to-2015

Any increase in exclusions is disappointing, an increase in permanent exclusions in the secondary sector potentially means 790 more young people face severe disruption to their lives while another school is found for them. However, the longer-term trend, for rate of permanent exclusions across all state-funded primary, secondary and special schools at 0.07 is still on a downward trend since 2006/07 when the rate was 0.12 per cent. Nevertheless, 31 children are permanently excluded every day.

As the Bulletin also noted, Persistent disruptive behaviour remained the most common reason for permanent exclusions in state funded primary, secondary and special schools – accounting for 1,900 (32.8 per cent) of all permanent exclusions in 2014/15. This is equivalent to two permanent exclusions per 10,000 pupils. It is also the most common reason for fixed period exclusions. The 79,590 fixed period exclusions for persistent disruptive behaviour in state-funded primary, secondary and special schools made up 26.3 per cent of all fixed period exclusions, up from 25.3 per cent in 2013/14. This is equivalent to around one fixed period exclusion per 100 pupils. Physical assault against an adult is the most common reason for fixed period exclusion from special schools – accounting for around a third of permanent exclusions and a quarter of fixed period exclusions in 2014/15. The figures for assault sin special schools suggest that more and better staff training may be needed since the very fact these pupils are no in a mainstream school hints at the potentially challenging nature of their behaviour. It would also be helpful to know whether the person assaulted was a teacher or other adult in the school or even someone responsible for helping the child travel to and from school.

As ever, boys are more likely to be excluded than girls and certain ethnic groups have higher than average exclusion rates, as do pupils receiving free school meals.