IPSEA has called for a rethink of school exclusions in our response to Edward Timpson CBE’s call for evidence, as well as highlighting key concerns with the way exclusions are used in practice.

Children with SEN are seven times more likely to be excluded than their peers who do not have SEN. The evidence indicates that exclusion results in worse, rather than better, outcomes for those children who are excluded. In the long term, children who are excluded are far less likely to gain qualifications and far more likely to end up in the criminal justice system. If exclusion is meant to benefit the excluded child, this cannot be said to be happening.

In assessing the impact of exclusion, we have asked that the review considers the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of exclusion?
  • Who is exclusion meant to benefit?
  • What do we want for children and young people who are excluded, and is this happening?

The legislation governing exclusion only permits its use for disciplinary reasons, indicating that its key purpose is to punish the child. The use of exclusion does not appear to offer any benefits or expected outcomes for excluded children. For children with SEN, it fails to take into account the inherent difficulties they may have in conforming to certain standards of behaviour.

The guidance on exclusions suggests head teachers should, as far as possible, avoid permanently excluding any pupil with an EHC plan or a looked after child. However, there is nothing to suggest what outcomes, if any, the Government expects schools to achieve for excluded pupils and in particular, those with SEN.

An education system which does not exclude is not fantasy; international comparisons show that other countries in Europe take a different approach to England. We have asked that these considerations are taken into account in considering whether, on any measure, exclusion ‘works’.

Additionally, we consider that there are a number of issues around the current regime of exclusions which require attention:

  • The need for more support for children with SEN, and for greater incentives for schools to be inclusive (which we consider leads to the discrepancies in exclusion figures across the country)
  • The difficulties faced by excluded children in accessing education
  • The lack of a legal mechanism with which exclusions can be effectively challenged
  • Unlawful practices (such as unlawful exclusions and ‘off-rolling’) leading to further exclusion of pupils with SEN, without the safeguards of formal exclusions
  • Issues relating to behaviour which have a particular impact on pupils with SEN, such as ‘zero-tolerance’ behaviour policies, and measures which are purportedly to manage behaviour being used where a child’s educational needs are not being met.

Our full response can be read here.