Problem of school exclusions will not be solved without extra resources
The long-awaited government review into school exclusions was published in early May.
The review looked at key pupil data and reiterated what Prospect and other campaigners have raised with the government many times: that particular groups of children, including those with special educational needs, those eligible for free school meals, ‘in need’ or from particular ethnic groups, were far more likely to be permanently excluded.
The secretary of state for education, Damian Hinds MP, was quick to accept the review’s 30 recommendations in principle and promised to set up consultations on the recommendations later this year.
Prospect’s Education and Children’s Services Group, which represents education professionals outside the classroom, welcomed the broad findings which highlighted significant variations in the approach to exclusions.
Although the review did not find that particular types of school used exclusion to improve results (the highly controversial practice known as ‘off-rolling’), it did say that schools of all types could use exclusion to better effect.
The review has set ambitious measures – including improved early intervention, joint co-ordinated working in local areas and improving standards in alternative provision (AP).
It is absolutely right that the government shows greater ambition for the education of all children rather than tinkering around the edges hoping for social mobility for a lucky few.
The education secretary has agreed to several strands of work that clearly need local authority support to succeed.
There is also recognition that local authorities have “a clear role, working with schools, in reviewing this information to identify trends, taking action where necessary” (recommendation 25).
This should include research to understand why vulnerable groups are many times more likely to be excluded, work to address this and guidance to reduce variations by postcode.
Funding and resources
Our members have seen the wholesale dismantling of local authority education departments since 2011.
The Local Government Association has said that children’s services face a funding gap of £949m in 2019-20.
A TES report in June 2018 revealed that across more than 60 local education authorities, the number of school improvement officers employed had fallen from 1,568 in 2010-11 to 629.2 in 2016-17 – a drop of 60 per cent.
If the Department for Education and its minister truly wish to get behind the report and address exclusion, they must put their money where their mouth is and provide targeted additional funding and resources to support those recommendations.