How much more bad news about exclusions can we take?
30 October 2018
Nurtureuk CEO Kevin Kibble responds to: “School exclusions 'fuelling gang violence'” Report by Barnardos.
This morning, children’s charity Barnardo’s released some research showing that excluded children are at serious risk of becoming involved in knife crime. Barnardo’s claims excluded children are also at risk of “being groomed and exploited by criminal gangs”. Those involved in education and children’s services will not be at all surprised by this, something many of us have been saying for years, and one of the drivers behind our #AspireNotToExclude campaign.
The Barnardo’s report also points out that in at least a third of councils in England there are no places available in alternative education settings such as pupil referral units (PRU) or special schools which would normally look after excluded children. This is not surprising considering the cuts in education spending per pupil and cuts to council budgets, the system is at breaking point with a 56% increase in exclusions in England since 2014.
Permanent exclusions are only part of the problem, there are even more children and young people on fixed-term exclusions, reduced timetables (some only spending an hour or two in school each week) and ‘home education’, often a euphemism for exclusion without the safeguards of authorities knowing where these children are.
There is a government review of exclusions taking place at the moment led by former minister for vulnerable children and families Edward Timpson which is due to report by the end of the year, one hopes that the outcomes will persuade the government that short-term ‘quick fixes’ are not the answer – we need a sustainable national approach, recognising and understanding the importance of how pupils learn, being inclusive and building resilience.
We know that to achieve this we need more and better targeted investment. Understanding the issues behind the behavioural traits that fuel exclusion is quite easily done and especially effective in the earlier stages of children’s education. If we were to assess, measure and monitor the social, emotional, mental health and cognitive issues (SEMH) that are driving poor behaviour, we can much more effectively intervene with proven strategies that reduce and negate the need for exclusion.
This assessment doesn’t have to be expensive. For the equivalent of around 40p per child per year, The Boxall Profile, the unique tool being used by teachers and psychologists for almost 50 years to measure SEMH, could be made available in all primary schools in England. The Boxall Profile tracks progress and monitors interventions to measure effectiveness, and this is true of individual children, whole classrooms and indeed whole schools – an invaluable insight especially in early identification of needs. (See the Nurture Portrait here)
For the aims of the #AspireNotToExclude campaign to be met, the government and Department for Education need to be bold and tackle the crisis facing education driven by rising exclusions. Exclusions single out children as ‘failures’ and the overwhelming evidence of the numbers of people in prison and young offenders institutions having been excluded from school means the costs to society as a whole completely outweighs the investment needed to fix our broken system.