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Pupils with SEN, or in Academies, significantly more likely to be excluded

View profile for Ed Duff
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The Department for Education has now published the updated statistics for the permanent and fixed period exclusions that were issued in England from 2015 to 2016. These statistics were published on 20th July 2017 and can be found here.

This data covers fixed period exclusions and permanent exclusions that were issued from 2015 to 2016.

A fixed period exclusion may be issued by a school in relation to minor breaches of the behaviour policy and can require a young person to be excluded from school for anything from half a day to a number of days. The current maximum combined total period of fixed term exclusions that any pupil can receive in a school year is 45 days.

A permanent exclusion can only be issued by a school in response to a series of significant breaches of a behaviour policy, or a one off very serious breach of a behaviour policy, and that allowing the pupil to remain in the school causes a risk to the welfare of that child or the welfare or education of other children at the school.

The data is spread across one main text document. The Department has also prepared several tables and maps to display the statistics for both fixed term and permanent exclusions on a national and local basis.

Geographic location

Areas such as Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Gloucestershire, Bedford and Buckinghamshire see the highest rates of permanent exclusion. The lowest rates of permanent exclusion are found in areas such as Essex, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Surrey, Hampshire, Wiltshire.

It is notable that the lowest rates of permanent exclusion appear to be in the area generally referred to as the South East and that the higher concentrations of permanent exclusions do appear north of Birmingham.

In terms of fixed period exclusions, a similar disparity also appears. The lowest rates of fixed period exclusions are also present in Essex, Cambridgeshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and Surrey. The higher rates of permanent fixed term exclusions appear in regions such as North Lincolnshire, Leeds, Barnsley, Sheffield and Doncaster. Again, the highest concentration of fixed period exclusions appears to lie in regions north of Birmingham.

Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)

It is interesting to note that this year, the DFE have addressed the correlation between exclusions and Special Educational Needs.

Within the main text of the data, the Department confirms that pupils identified as having Special Educational Needs account for almost half of all permanent exclusions and fixed period exclusions. Further, pupils who are in receipt of Special Educational Need additional support had the highest permanent exclusion rate and are almost seven times more likely to receive a permanent exclusion than pupils without Special Educational Needs. In addition, pupils with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or with a Statement of Special Educational Needs (SSEN) had the highest fixed period exclusion rate and were almost six times more likely to receive a fixed period exclusion than a pupil with no Special Educational Needs.

Comparing this data to the 2016 Report, it does appear that there has been a slight decrease in the risk children and young people with Special Educational Needs face in terms of receiving a fixed term or permanent exclusion.

In last year's data, pupils identified with Special Educational Needs accounted for over half of all permanent exclusions and fixed period exclusions. Comparing that to this year's data, it is less than half of all permanent exclusions and fixed period exclusions that involves Special Educational Needs.

Pupils in receipt of Special Educational Needs support, which means those that are identified as having Special Educational Needs but do not have an EHCP or SSEN, remain as exposed this year as last year to either fixed term or permanent exclusion. However, this year has seen a slight decrease in the likelihood of pupils with an EHCP or SSEN receiving either a fixed period exclusion or a permanent exclusion.

In last year's data, pupils with an Education, Health and Care Plan or a Statement of Special Educational Needs were seven times more likely to receive either a fixed term exclusion or a permanent exclusion. However, in this year's data, pupils with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or an SSEN were six times more likely to receive either form of exclusion. Whilst obviously this does mean that pupils with an EHCP or SSEN are at heightened risk, that risk seems to be on the decline.

The data also indicates that the exclusion rates from pupil referral units has increased. In the previous set of data, 19,410 fixed term exclusions were issued. In this set of data, a total of 23,400 fixed term exclusions were issued from pupil referral units. The rate of permanent exclusions from pupil referral units has also increased. Whilst that rate is a fraction of a percentage point it does represent an almost 8% increase.

Looking more closely at the exclusion rates for pupils with SEN, there is an interesting discovery in the data.

The number of total exclusions for pupils with no identified Special Educational Needs was 3,405. The number of total exclusions for pupils with SEN support was 2,915.

The Department for Education's own statistics try to suggest that there is a decline in the number of pupils in the general population with Special Educational Needs. That notwithstanding, the latest statistics suggest that around 11.6% of pupils have Special Educational Needs. Bearing that in mind, the fact that the number of pupils receiving exclusions that are identified as having Special Educational Needs is only 500 behind the number of people receiving exclusions without SEN is shocking.

That concern continues when you consider the number pupils that have been excluded who have a Statement of Special Educational Needs or an EHCP. Again, the number of pupils without SEN that were excluded was 3,405. The number of pupils with a Statement or EHCP that were excluded was 370. That is around 10%. The Department's latest statistics suggest that around 2.8% of all pupils have a Statement or EHCP. That being the case, therefore, it would seem that a pupil with a Statement or EHCP is five times more likely to receive an exclusion.

Academies

The exclusion rate in primary academies appears to be at least double that rate in maintained primary schools. The rate for permanent exclusions in Local Authority maintained primary schools is 0.02%. For primary academies, that rate is 0.04%. Going further into the data, converter academies have an exclusion rate of 0.02%, which is the average for primary schools, however, sponsored academies see an exclusion rate of 0.07%. That is more than triple the rate of permanent exclusions.

It is worth commenting on the difference between sponsor academies and converter academies.

Converter academies are considered to be successful schools that were given the opportunity to voluntarily convert to academy status. Typically, this is a maintained school that was achieving a level of outstanding before deciding to become essentially independent from the Local Authority.

By contrast, a sponsored academy is one which was a failing school which was sponsored to convert into an academy status. With that in mind, the fact that converter schools have nearly triple the rate of exclusions, suggests that converter academies may be simply excluding the 'difficult' pupils, rather than catering for their needs.

This trend also appears to exist between Local Authority maintained secondary schools and converter and sponsored academies.

The exclusion rate in the Local Authority maintained secondary schools is 0.18%. In converter academies it is actually far lower at 0.11%. However, in sponsored academies the exclusion rate is 0.32%. This is nearly double the rate of maintained schools and almost triple the rate in converter academies.

It has been noted previously that there is a discrepancy between exclusions rates in maintained schools and academies. This latest set of data certainly seems to indicate that his trend is continuing particularly in converter academies.

Conclusions

Of particular overall concern is that the rates of exclusion have generally increased. That means that all pupils are at an enhanced risk of being excluded from education.

Whenever a pupil receives a permanent exclusion, it is likely to have a very significant and detrimental impact on their future prospects. A permanent exclusion can cause difficulties with finding alternative education. In the immediate period following the permanent exclusion, a pupil can face serious difficulties receiving any interim education. Further, they then have to face the situation of being reintegrated back into education upon joining a further school. For those pupils that are unlucky enough to then have to move to a pupil referral unit, their outcomes are severely limited.

It is concerning that the rates of exclusion from sponsored academies is so much higher than any other type of school. There simply is no justifiable reason for this gross distortion. Whilst we have to recognise that sponsored academies may well face challenges, the answer to those challenges is not exclusion. Those pupils still require an education.

It is pleasing to see that there has been some reduction in the exposure to exclusion faced by pupils with Special Educational Needs, however, it is still very significant just how at risk a pupil with Special Educational Needs is. It also remains the case that whenever a pupil is facing an exclusion, parents, schools and Local Authorities clearly should be giving careful consideration to whether or not the pupil in question may have Special Educational Needs warranting additional support.

If you are experiencing difficulties in relation to exclusion, Special Educational Needs or otherwise then please do not hesitate to contact our specialist education solicitors on 02920 291704.

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