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School Exclusions - Should we be Intervening Earlier?

4th October, 2016

By Scott W
Fixed term exclusions per 100 pupils (from BBC)

Government figures just released have shown that the number of permanent exclusions has risen from 4,630 three years ago to 5,800 permanent exclusions in 2014-15.

As can be seen by the graph above, Barnsley and Middlesbrough saw the highest rates of exclusion.

"Exclusions are a measure of last resort when all other avenues have been exhausted, and are designed to change behaviour and improve life chances," a spokesman for Middlesbrough Borough Council said.

The willingness to turn to exclusion does not appear to be shared by all regions (as seen in the graphic below), however, the numbers of pupils being excluded is still worrying.

(from the BBC)

Whilst there may be instances where exclusion is the only option left available to head teachers, it is perhaps the lack of successful earlier interventions which should be the focus of our attention.

Are schools committing enough resources to children who show signs of struggling behaviourally earlier in their school careers or is a lack of financing hindering them in this pursuit?

Tony Draper

It seems that many of the areas most heavily affected by exclusions are those in which there is a higher level of economic uncertainty, as Tony Draper, former president of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) recognised. 

He also suggested that school finances were "at breaking point" meaning that opportunities to intervene "may be lost".

Measures such as counselling, support work or clubs, which may result in improved behaviour and attitudes, demand additional finance and many schools are simply not in the position to be able to offer such provisions.

The Department of Education released a statement which said: 'Every child should be able to learn without disruption - that's why we've given head teachers more powers to tackle poor behaviour.'

Should we not, however, contest this statement for the use of the word 'tackle'? Tackling seems to suggest that the problem is being dealt with, but is removing such pupils truly serving to fulfil the role schools should be undertaking in educating young people, not only to be better academically but also to be better citizens?

Whilst helping children turn around patterns of poor behaviour is an incredibly challenging endeavour, this must be the primary focus, and every exclusion should be seen as a failure. If finances are not available to offer the support required to achieve this goal, then schools cannot be held to account and we must look at the spending policies which are undermining them.

To read more on this subject, visit http://bbc.in/2dG1q3c - we'd welcome your comments.

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