Exclusions in England

Nowhere is Britain’s social mobility failure more obvious than in the example of school exclusions in the UK. 

 Excluded children are the most vulnerable: twice as likely to be in the care of the state, four times more likely to have grown up in poverty, seven times more likely to have a special educational need and 10 times more likely to suffer recognised mental health problems. Yet our education system is profoundly ill-equipped to break a cycle of disadvantage for these young people.

This problem is much bigger than previously recognised. As mental ill health in young people rises, and more children are subject to interaction with social care services each year, more vulnerable children spill into the alternative provision (AP) sector. Too often this path leads them straight from school exclusion to social exclusion. Excluded young people are more likely to be unemployed, develop severe mental health problems and go to prison.

The cost to society of failing excluded young people is staggering. It is an economic, as well as social imperative that action is taken to upskill the teaching workforce, improve outcomes for multiply disadvantaged pupils and to stem the tide of exclusions.

Failing our most vulnerable children at school isn't only a failing of social mobility, it costs the State billions of pounds. 

Every cohort of permanently excluded pupils will go on to cost the state an extra £2.1 billion in education, health, benefits and criminal justice costs. Yet more pupils are being excluded, year on year.

New analysis reveals that official data is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the full extent of exclusion.

Despite only 6,685 reported permanent exclusions last year, 48,000 of the most vulnerable pupils were educated in the AP sector which caters for excluded students. we reveal that still more pupils are not captured in any government data, yet are routinely functionally excluded from mainstream school.

We identify key factors in rising exclusion rates.

There are increasing numbers of children with complex needs – where mental ill health, unstable or unsafe family environments and learning needs combine. Yet a lack of workforce development in schools compounds the challenge students face. One in two leaders say their teachers cannot recognise mental ill health, and three in four say they cannot refer effectively to external services.

As more pupils are excluded close to their exams, the capacity of the staff who work with excluded students is diminishing.

New data analysis shows once a child is excluded, they are twice as likely to be taught by an unqualified teacher and twice as likely to have a supply teacher.

Meanwhile, a leadership recruitment crisis in schools for excluded pupils has seen leader vacancies double between 2011 and 2016.

Poor staffing can lead to dangerous environments in schools for excluded pupils, particularly in ‘cold spot’ regions.

A child excluded from school in the North East is around eight times more likely to attend an alternative provision rated ‘Inadequate’ by Ofsted. In some local authorities with the highest levels of exclusion, 100 per cent of pupils are in settings graded ‘Inadequate’.