Never giving up: addressing exclusions

A report by the Children’s Commissioner for England, Dr Maggie Atkinson, whose role it is to champion children and young people, has revealed that while most schools work hard to cater for troubled students, for the first time some schools have admitted illegally excluding children.

The report, ‘They Never Give Up On You’, found good practice in many parts of England – as well as areas for concern and improvement.

“For the first time schools are on record saying they had illegally excluded pupils,” said Dr Atkinson. “Due to the informal nature of such exclusions it is difficult to know how widespread this practice is but it is worth further examination. Our Inquiry, which took evidence from a wide range of education partners and young people, found both good practice and serious causes for concern.”

Illegal exclusions

The report says it found clear evidence of illegal exclusions, ranging from Year 11 students apparently being sent home at Christmas and told not to come back until their exams in June, to ‘informal’ exclusions when someone is told verbally, with no correspondence with parents, to go home for a few days, or not to come back before the school has interviewed their parents.

The commissioner says this informal ‘sending home’, not recorded and done ‘by the back door’, is illegal.

Factors making exclusion more likely

The commissioner says government statistics about exclusions show that four key factors in a child’s life make it more likely they will be excluded:


  • their gender;
  • having special educational needs (SEN);
  • their ethnicity;
  • and when they live in poverty.


When all four factors are combined, these figures show that a black boy from an African Caribbean background, who has SEN and is also from a low income household, is 168 times more likely to be permanently excluded from the same school than a white female classmate, who does not have SEN and comes from a more affluent household.

The commissioner has suggested parents and pupils should be able to appeal against unfair exclusions, and that the Department for Education should issue clear guidance for the exclusion thresholds that schools use to decide what to do when dealing with a child at risk of exclusion.

“Although overall exclusion rates have fallen for several years, and it’s clear schools are working hard to keep children in learning so they can achieve what they should, certain groups, such as students with special educational needs and from some ethnic groups, continue to be over represented. This cannot be right. We need to act to address the issue.”

Cuts hitting vulnerable

Speaking for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), Alison Ryan said that the union was worried that cuts in local authority funding are hitting many of the services on which vulnerable or troubled families rely to support any of their children with emotional or mental health problems.

Ms Ryan also said that the ATL totally agreed with the commissioner, that the government and Ofsted need to look at the consequences of school league tables, and constant testing and inspections, which she said may encourage a minority of schools down the route of informal exclusions.

Download the report from the Children’s Commissioner website here.

What’s the picture on exclusions where you are? Share your experiences with your fellow Eteach readers.


4 thoughts on “Never giving up: addressing exclusions

  1. Some children need to be, and always should be excluded so as the education of other children that don’t misbehave, and want to learn, can continue uninterrupted. There is a certain ‘political bias’ towards the troublesome child who is the cause of class disruption and whom the teacher’s attention is always directed at, unintended of course, because they take up so much time of the teacher at the cost of others children’s learning and progress.

    The ridiculous ‘inclusive’ catch all phrase where all children are catered for regardless of their behaviour is an extremely detrimental policy that does not work and is the cause of many young NQTs leaving the profession early on; in other words the government rather than cater for these troublesome pupils in special schools which means more spending, they are instead forced onto Head teachers in state schools to save money. I used to teach in a state school with a problem child in my class who caused complete havoc and chaos. I left after three years to teach in a private school overseas where such problem are excluded very quickly, and I am much happier in that I receive support and have a class of pupils who progress and learn.

    The state schools, not all, in the UK are an absolute failure where pupils come out of primary schools lacking in numeracy and literacy skills and problem children still are excepted and catered for. What a shame and is it any wonder that they can’t get Head teachers or teachers to stay on …

  2. What about the fact that a school where I worked would send home around 20 students on “study leave” during Ofsted inspections. The staff were expected to have these students in their classes at less “stressful” times. Indeed was it a coincidence that they were the kids with the most troubled school histories. It was purely to do with the fact that the head wanted to maximise the chances of basking in the glory of a good Ofsted.

  3. Paul Harty is absolutely correct. If the age, sex, ethnicity and level of family income make certain kinds of student 168 times more likely to be excluded, we can be quite sure that these students display 1680 times as much violent and disruptive behavior as others.

    It should be easier, not harder, to get rid of students who don’t want to be there and who make it difficult for the ones who do want to be there, and their teachers, to work.

  4. I don’t believe these schools exclude troublesome children enough and I agree with the first comment about their detrimental impact on the education of others. As a teacher I have struggled with such children in my class and watched the special attention given to them dragging down the rest of the school, whilst the child at whom it is directed doesn’t seem to appreciate it, benefit from it or change at all.

    As I parent I had to endure my child’s Year 6 being sabotaged by an extremely disruptive pupil and the school not doing anything about it until we started a complaint against them. I’m now in the process of corresponding with my child’s secondary headteacher about similar disruptions in his high school and whilst he appears to be supportive, wanting his school to do well, I’m having to keep a close eye on things to make sure that he does. One of the young teachers to whom I spoke at parents’ evening applauded my actions as she had been desperately seeking support with these disruptive pupils, being unable safely to teach science with them in her class. Give them a fair chance by all means but a fair chance means just that and when they’ve had that, kick them out before they spoil for those who want to learn.

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