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School exclusion can affect life chances

By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI

How is data in the education system in T&T used to ensure that behaviour and exclusion practices do not discriminate against students from certain ethnic communities, socio-economic backgrounds, or geographical areas?

I am in London at the moment and involved in discussions relating to recommendations made in a review of school exclusion practice in England.

The Department for Education published this landmark review on Tuesday, May 7. The review, which commenced in March 2018—at the instigation of the PM, and  led by Edward Timpson CBE, a former Government Children’s Minister—considered “the drivers of exclusion rates and, in particular, the factors that drive the disproportionate exclusion of some groups of pupils. Amongst others, this includes pupils from certain ethnic groups; pupils who are eligible for free school meals, or have been eligible for free school meals in the last six years; those with special educational needs; looked after children; and children in need.”

In collecting evidence to inform the review, Timpson used data from the Ethnicity Facts and Figures website https://www.ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk, which collates data on how different ethnic groups interact with public services.

This data highlights the fact that “pupils from some ethnic backgrounds are disproportionally more likely to be excluded from school. Black Caribbean pupils, for example, were permanently excluded at three times the rate of White British pupils. White Irish Traveller and Gypsy/Roma pupils had by far the highest rates of both fixed period and permanent exclusions.”

Timpson “makes 30 recommendations to ensure exclusions are used appropriately and Government commits to new school accountability.” The review “highlights variation in exclusions practice across different schools, local authorities and certain groups of children. The report concludes that while there is no optimal number of exclusions, there needs to be action to ensure permanent exclusions are only used as a last resort, where nothing else will do.

“Analysis shows 85% of all mainstream schools not expelling a single child in 2016/17, but 0.2% of schools having expelled more than ten pupils in the same year.

“Vulnerable groups of children are more likely to be excluded, with 78% of permanent exclusions issued to children who had special educational needs (SEN), or classified as in need or eligible for free school meals. Certain ethnic groups, including Bangladeshi and Indian pupils, have lower rates of exclusion than White British pupils, with the analysis also finding some ethnic groups, such as Black Caribbean and Mixed White and Black Caribbean pupils, experiencing higher rates, after controlling for other factors.”

Here are some of the measures being taken forward by the Government in response to the review. It will:

“—re-write guidance on managing behaviour and the circumstances when exclusions should be used.

—ensure that the new Ofsted framework will also contribute to a clampdown on off-rolling by requiring inspectors to question schools where there are signs of it, and instruct them to report where pupils are taken off-roll primarily in the interests of the school rather than the pupil.

—make early intervention the norm

—call on leaders to work together e.g. school leaders, governing bodies, and Directors of Children’s Services

—Make sure exclusion is the start of something new and positive

—Enable local authorities to establish forums…to plan support for vulnerable children who are at risk of leaving school, by exclusion or otherwise

—Take action across Government for children who are at risk of being drawn into crime, such as ensuring the Youth Endowment Fund is open to schools and AP settings

—Crack down on poor behaviour”. See £10m programme led by Tom Bennett – a network of expert schools will be identified to help teachers and school leaders in need of support.

Let’s share good practice in T&T to ensure that exclusion does not adversely affect students’ life chances.