Coram school exclusions report finds inadequate support for excluded pupils and their families

Published: Tuesday 7th May 2019

A new report released by the children’s charity Coram has uncovered a worrying lack of support for children who have been excluded from school. Unfair results: pupil and parent views on school exclusion has contributed to the government review of school exclusions published today by the former Children’s Minister Edward Timpson CBE.

Coram’s report offers a rare opportunity to hear from both parents and children regarding school exclusion and includes the views of children and young people with and without personal experience of exclusion, an area largely under-researched to date.

In response to the findings, Coram is calling for local authorities to supply information on the number of teaching days lost between a permanent exclusion being made and an alternative school place being found, amid concerns that some children are slipping through the net and missing months or even years from school. There is currently no available data on the amount of teaching days that are lost when a child is permanently excluded, as local authorities are not legally required to collect this data.

Coram’s report recommends that no child should be out of school any longer than the start of the term following that in which they were permanently excluded. Coram is also calling for clearer national guidance on exclusion to be written with and for young people, to be provided by central government, schools and local authorities working together.

Coram’s parent survey found that 81% of parents of children who were permanently excluded said the support they received in finding an alternative school place for their child was poor or very poor, whilst three-quarters (75%) of parents whose child had been temporarily excluded felt the support they received in preparing for their child’s return to school was poor or very poor. Ineffective communication from the school to their child was also noted by over three quarters (79%) of parents whose children had been excluded.

Some parents reported their children had been affected by anxiety, depression, and loss of self-worth. One parent said: “He is diagnosed with OCD and this was not taken into consideration. The decline in his mental health is hugely apparent. He has become very reclusive and has only left the house four or five times in the past four weeks.”

The stress of the exclusion also took its toll on parents, particularly on their work and relationships with other family members. One parent noted: “My husband and I have lost significant work days and salary as a result. As a family, we are at breaking point.”

In its surveys with pupils with and without experience of exclusion, Coram found that almost two-fifths (39%) were unsure if exclusion was done fairly, and nearly two-thirds (63%) felt schools should help pupils more with their problems rather than excluding them.

One young person with experience of exclusion said: “A statement wasn’t taken before deciding to exclude me” (female pupil, aged 15), underlining the perception of unfairness within the system. Another pupil who had not been excluded said: “Many people do the same as that person but doesn't get expelled. NOT FAIR!” (male pupil, aged 12) highlighting the inconsistencies in the application of the exclusions procedure.

Coram’s legal practice is one of two in the country that undertakes legal aid work on education issues, and has advised over 650 clients and taken on over 150 cases in the past 12 months. In addition Coram’s Child Law Advice Service handled almost 800 calls regarding school exclusions in 2017/18.

Dr Carol Homden CBE, CEO of Coram, said: “Partnership between schools, parents, pupils and authorities is essential to address the needs of children and secure their continuity of learning when exclusion is triggered. Schools have a duty to all their pupils and exclusion of an individual may be appropriate or necessary but it should never be unsupported: clear expectations, good communications, access to assessment of needs and timely provision of alternative placements can be and must be achieved in every case in the timescale of the child.”

Edward Timpson CBE, who led the Government of school exclusions, said: “Coram’s research with young people and parents into their views on school behaviour and exclusions has provided invaluable insights that have contributed significantly to the findings and recommendations of my review. If we are to tackle the inequalities in the system and improve outcomes for vulnerable children, it is vital that we hear from families with direct experience of the exclusions process and from pupils right across our education system.”

Coram conducted research with parents and pupils between July and October 2018 to understand their views and experiences on exclusion. 124 online surveys were completed by parents who had been in contact with Coram’s Child Law Advice Service (CLAS). The survey was open to parents who had a child temporarily or permanently excluded, or who had been advised that their child would be excluded. Pupils from mainstream schools were also invited to participate in a pupil survey. This was open to all pupils; experience of exclusion was not required. Surveys were completed by 318 pupils from five mainstream primary and secondary schools. Nine interviews with pupils who had experience of exclusion or had been on the edge of exclusion were undertaken. Pupils were from mainstream primary and secondary schools.

The Government review of school exclusions was announced in March 2018. The review, led by former Children’s Minister Edward Timpson, was tasked with exploring how head teachers use exclusion in practice, and why some groups of pupils are more likely to be excluded.

You can read Coram’s report Unfair results: Pupil and parent views on school exclusion here

You can read the executive summary here

For more on the Timpson Review of School Exclusion, click here