Swiss Cottage School

Getting behind secondary school exclusions statistics

Start date: 13 September 2018
End date: 31 December 2018
  • Why are so many children being excluded from London’s secondary schools?
  • Why are black boys and children with special needs over-represented?
  • What happens to these children after they are excluded?



These are some of the questions the London Assembly Education Panel sought to discuss at its meeting on 13 September 2018 at City Hall.


In conversation with our expert panel we heard that exclusion rates are going up because mainstream schools are unable to deal with some pupils’ increasingly complex needs. Pupils requiring the most support are more likely to be excluded and denied education alongside their peers. We were told that for some schools, exclusions can seem to be the cheap and easy answer. But the pupils deserve better.


Excluded pupils and those in Alternative Provision (educational provision outside of mainstream and special needs schools) are full of potential but without a high-quality teaching and learning environment, they face higher chances of achieving poor educational outcomes, not being in education, training or employment as they approach adulthood, and getting drawn into risky behaviour and criminal activity.


Exclusion rates

More and more children are being excluded…

In London, the exclusion rate increased by 26 per cent between 2013/14 and 2016/17. In 2016/17 there were 980 permanent exclusions and 37,790 fixed term exclusions. The number of pupils in Alternative Provision has also increased since 2013/14.


…and many are not being recorded

We heard about the hidden exclusions that are not captured by official exclusion figures and the large number of pupils being unofficially excluded through home-schooling, managed moves and off-rolling– when underachieving pupils are excluded or moved in the lead up to GCSE exams as an attempt to boost school results.


Who is most likely to be excluded?

Disproportionate exclusion rates for certain groups suggest that either schools may be failing to adequately support certain learners, or that behaviour management systems inadvertently discriminate against some pupils. In 2016, for every girl permanently excluded, three boys were in the same position. Black and Gypsy / Roma children are consistently overrepresented in exclusion figures, as are children eligible for Free School Meals and Looked After Children. Pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN) are also overrepresented, accounting for 14 per cent of the pupil population but 42 per cent of exclusions in 2016/17. Pupils with SEN, who do not have Education and Health Care Plans (EHCP) or Statements, face a considerably higher rate of permanent exclusions than their peers with formal support plans.


Children being excluded have complex interrelating needs and mainstream schools are struggling to respond 

The characteristics of those young people being excluded and attending Alternative Provision show that it is the most vulnerable children that are being excluded from mainstream education. Many of the children being excluded have multiple support needs such as mental health issues, special educational needs, low prior attainment, and home-lives. Some mainstream schools do not have the capacity to provide a suitable learning environment that addresses their social and emotional needs as well as their educational needs. With mental health issues and complex needs on the rise, schools and parents are also reporting that they often can’t make referrals for urgent therapeutic support services, that long waiting lists are leaving children in crisis.


The most common reasons for both permanent and fixed-term exclusions are physical violence, persistent disruption and verbal abuse. But disruptive behaviour can be an indicator of unmet support needs. We heard about cases where zero tolerance behaviour policies were creating environments leading to exclusions which could have been avoided. Concerns were also expressed about insufficient teacher training in dealing with behaviour, special needs education, identifying mental health issues and addressing unconscious bias.


We need a more inclusive and tolerant education system

We heard about different ways children facing exclusion could be supported in mainstream settings and at specialist off-site provisions offering more intensive support that addresses behavioural, emotional and social difficulties, helping children to build up the soft skills required for continued studies as well as independent living and adult life. This is vital support, but there are concerns that their educational attainment can slip off the radar.


Our guests said there were better outcomes when the adults working with these children take the time to speak with them to understand their ambitions and the challenges they are facing, involving the children in the decisions being made about how they are supported – to create a culture of co-design.


What young learners at Managed Intervention Centres told us

In November, the Education Panel visited two education centres run by TBAP Multi-Agency Trust. The centres provide managed intervention programmes for KS3 and KS4 learners who are at risk of permanent exclusion. This includes tailored one-to-one and small group interventions with a focus on Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PHSE), literacy and numeracy. The centres work closely with the Local Authorities, make referrals to specialist services and arrange support workers for the families of the learners – garnering a holistic package of support around the young person.


The learners at told Members that the best thing about the centres was that they felt like they were given a second chance. They said the teachers didn’t get angry or shout at them but instead helped them focus on their behaviour, explaining where they were going wrong and correcting them. The young people were learning how to stay focussed and remain calm. They were reflecting on their ambitions for the future and were determined to make their return to mainstream school successful.


One of the learners shared his advice for pupils who were at risk of exclusion:

“Fix up, you're on thin ice.

Listen, stop trying to be the class clown. That won’t get you anywhere. 

Where will you be afterwards? You'll have a bad education. You won’t get accepted to the top universities.

You don't need to get respect from hitting someone.

You can get the best grades and get respect from that.”


David Kurten AM and Chair of the Education Panel, Jennette Arnold OBE AM speak to some students


With mainstream settings buckling under the pressure of supporting more and more children with increasingly complex needs, the education sector needs to get to grips with these issues to prevent thousands of children falling through the gaps in the system. The pupils at risk of exclusion are often very vulnerable with multiple needs. They require support from schools, parents and specialist services so that they can receive an appropriate education and meet their full potential. Early identification of needs is key. And schools require assistance to address these needs, be it through the development of internal intensive support units or through prompt referrals to external specialist provisions.


There are examples of good practice in supporting those at risk of exclusion but there is much to be done to build the capacity of all mainstream schools to meet the complex needs of those at risk of exclusion.



You can watch the Education Panel’s discussion on exclusions here.