DfE to change exclusions’ policy

7 May 19

The Department for Education has announced an overhaul of schools’ policies on permanently excluding pupils in response to a damning report.

Announcing that all 30 recommendations of the Timpson review had been accepted today, education secretary Damian Hinds said that exclusion should only be used as a “last resort” and announced a clamp-down on ‘off-rolling’ - the practice of removing children from the school register without a formal exclusion.

The review - commissioned from former MP and children’s minister Edward Timpson - highlighted wide variation in exclusions practice between different schools, local authorities and groups of children.

It found that 0.2% of schools had expelled more than ten pupils in the same year and that children from certain minority ethnic groups were disproportionately affected.

More than three-quarters of permanent exclusions were issued to children with special educational needs, or those who were eligible for free school meals. Bangladeshi and Indian pupils had lower rates of exclusion than white British pupils. But ethnic groups, such as black Caribbean and mixed white and black Caribbean pupils, experienced higher rates.

Children on a ‘children in need plan’ were four times more likely to be permanently excluded than those with no social care classification. Those who a child protection plan were around 3.5 times more likely and looked after children 2.3 times as likely.

In his response, Hinds announced reform to commissioning and funding arrangements for alternative provision for excluded pupils, including the use of isolation units and arrangements for those with special educational needs. He also announced new guidance on the circumstances in which exclusions should be used.

He said that a new Ofsted framework would contribute to reducing off-rolling. School heads, governing bodies and directors of children’s services would be encouraged to share data, with reference to certain ethnic groups, special educational needs and children who had a social worker. He said the government had committed £10m to help teachers crack down on poor classroom behaviour.

He commented: “Exclusion should not be considered the end point for any child; it has to be the start of something new and positive – with alternative provision offering smaller class sizes and tailored support. I want schools to be accountable for the pupils they exclude. This will help the most vulnerable children in our society to fulfil their potential.”

The Timpson review was commissioned in response the first findings of the Race Disparity Audit commissioned by the prime minister in 2016 to analyse the role of ethnicity in relation to health, education, employment and the criminal justice system. The audit is set to be regularly updated.

Welcoming the government’s response, Timpson CBE said: “No parent sends their child off to school believing they will end up being excluded but when this does happen we all need to be confident we have a well-functioning system that makes sure no child slips through the net.”

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, acknowledged that the rising rate of permanent exclusions and the growing incidence of ‘off rolling’ had been a concern for the education profession for some time and that the Timpson report has made “some sensible recommendations”. 

He commented: “We know that the vast majority of schools want only the best for all their pupils, and the minority who engage in poor practice in relation to exclusions and ‘off rolling’ are not typical of the majority of schools. However, for those children and families affected, these practices can have a devastating effect.”

He said that the government had failed to recognise the core political policy drivers for exclusion – a high-stakes accountability system, the fragmentation of schools into competing units chasing league table positions and the reduction of local authority accountability. He said: “It is extraordinary that it has taken the government so long to catch up.”

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