Scandalous increase in school exclusions
Schools are in urgent need of greater understanding and alternative strategies, writes Dr Simon Gibbs.
Last year I gave a paper based on my book Immoral Education: The Assault on Teachers’ Identities, Autonomy and Efficacy to academics in the Netherlands. When I told them that part of my argument was the rate at which young people were being excluded from schools and gave them the figures, the response was that “if that were happening here there would be national outrage”. The UK figures are now even worse (School exclusion rates in London double the national average, 12 January). The most recent figures from the DfE reveal that 7,720 young people were permanently excluded from schools in 2016-17. Of these, more than half were in year 9 or above. Children eligible for free school meals were more than four times more likely to be excluded than those not eligible, children with special educational needs more than six times more likely than those not, and there were disproportionate numbers from certain ethnic heritages among those excluded. Although schools are the agents of this phenomenon, the reasons for this scandal lie deeper in the nature of education and the pressures on schools to perform, and are in urgent need of greater understanding and alternative strategies.
Dr Simon Gibbs
Reader in educational psychology, Newcastle University
• Thank you for raising the issue of school exclusion. I was the head of alternative provision at the Ashford school which Dré Clinton-Barnes attended. Ashford schools do not permanently exclude, and the school he attended had comprehensive alternative provision which meant no fixed-term exclusions (one-, two- or five-day). Sadly, due to funding issues, this provision has now been largely dismantled. I was made redundant and I am now back in mainstream teaching. Schools can do more for children like Dré. There are inclusive models available that allow challenging and vulnerable students to stay within mainstream education. However, school leaders who might pursue this more moral and effective path are hampered by lack of funding and the need to meet government targets and Ofsted criteria.
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