News story

Schools to trial new approach to exclusions

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Hundreds of children who are permanently excluded from school are to be part of a new trial in which headteachers will be responsible for ensuring that they continue to receive a decent education.

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One in ten secondary schools - around 300 schools - from across England will be part of the trial in which headteachers will be responsible for ensuring that the pupils they exclude continue to receive a decent education. It will also help pupils who are at risk of being excluded by encouraging schools to intervene earlier.

Headteachers who permanently exclude a pupil from their school will now be able to choose the alternative provision, rather than the local authority. The school will also receive the funding instead of the local authority.

Schools in the trials will then be better able to monitor both attainment and attendance of the pupils. The trial will also help encourage schools to intervene early with children who are at risk of being excluded.

In 2009/10, 5020 pupils were permanently excluded from their secondary school. Most were sent to alternative provision such as Pupil Referral Units. Latest statistics show that only 1.4 per cent of pupils in alternative provision achieved five good GCSEs including maths and English. The Government believes this is not good enough.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:

Improving behaviour in our schools is a key priority of the Government, which is why we support headteachers who permanently exclude those children who persistently disrupt the education of others or who bully other children.

We need to ensure, however, that exclusion does not lead those children to abandon education. The quality of education for permanently excluded children is so poor that scarcely any achieve the minimum level of qualifications they need to succeed. Many of these children are the most vulnerable in society and we need to ensure that, despite being expelled from school, they continue to receive a good quality education, albeit in an alternative setting.

This trial is just one of a range of education reforms designed to drive up the quality and academic standards of alternative education for excluded children. We are determined that no child’s education should be abandoned, regardless of the behaviour or problems facing that child.

Eight local authorities have joined the trial to date:

  • Leeds City Council
  • Lancashire County Council
  • East Sussex County Council
  • Wiltshire Council
  • Sefton Council
  • Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council
  • Hampshire
  • Middlesbrough

Areas in Hampshire, Hertfordshire and Leeds will be implementing the new approach between September 2012 and April 2013.

A headteacher has the power to permanently exclude a pupil if they have seriously or persistently breached the school’s behaviour policy, and where allowing the pupil to remain in school would seriously harm the education or welfare of the pupil or others in the school.

Currently when a decision to permanently exclude has been taken, for the first five days of the exclusion parents are required to supervise their child. On the sixth day the local authority assumes responsibility for providing full-time education for the pupil. They decide what provision would best meet the needs of the excluded pupil. This may be in a local authority-managed Pupil Referral Unit or with an alternative provider, such as a third sector organisation which, for example, focuses on vocational subjects or intensive personal and behavioural improvement.

Schools in the trial will take over most of this responsibility from their local authority. Cambridgeshire County Council is already running a similar approach with some of its schools. Historically, the schools in the county tended to trust alternative providers and assume that pupils were getting the quality of support they needed.

Now five school partnerships have freedom to allocate funding of about £5 million, previously controlled by the council, as they choose. Schools have used the funding to bring about a significant shift in attitude and approach. Schools are much more concerned about making sure the alternative provision meet the individual needs of the pupil. Results for excluded pupils or those at risk of exclusion have improved and expenditure, which in the past was increasing in huge steps year on year, is stable.

Mark Patterson, headteacher at Chesterton Community College which has been part of the new approach, said:

By having more control over alternative provision and the funding, we can have better provision in our own schools for those students who would previously have been permanently excluded or who would have simply ‘dropped out’ and then been hard or impossible to re-engage.

The system has worked well with referrals to the Pupil Referral Units falling by 60 per cent over the past three years, which means far fewer students out of school - and that has to be a good thing.

The trial will take place over three school years, being reviewed at the end of each year. It is due to finish in July 2014.

Notes for editors:

Statistics on GCSE results of children in Alternative Provision in 2009/10 can be accessed from the In the News section of our website.

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Published 9 October 2012