7th May 2019

The most vulnerable children in our schools are those who are most likely to be excluded - this finding of the long-awaited Timpson review on exclusions from school will be no surprise to those who care for, or work with care-experienced children and young people.

According to new analysis carried out for this review, 78 percent of pupils who are permanently excluded either have special educational needs, are categorised as in need, or are eligible for free school meals. Children with social, emotional and mental health needs are more likely to be permanently excluded, as are children on a Child Protection Plan and children who are looked after.

The review also reveals that a child’s likelihood of being excluded varies depending on which school they attend. 85 percent of all mainstream schools in England did not permanently exclude a single child in 2016/17, but 47 schools permanently excluded more than ten pupils in that same year. Similarly, while 43 percent of mainstream schools did not use any fixed period exclusions, 38 schools issued more than 500 each in a single year.

Becky Brooks, Adoption UK's schools policy adviser said: “In view of this, and Timpson’s findings that a small proportion of schools are off-rolling students, we welcome recommendations that will make schools more accountable for the outcomes of children they exclude, and, crucially, provide support where students are at risk of exclusion so that vulnerable children do not, in Timpson’s words, ‘fall through the cracks’.”

Adoption UK also welcomes the fact the review calls for the DfE to publish the number and rate of exclusions of previously looked after children, including adopted children.

Mrs Brooks said: “This is something Adoption UK has been calling on the Government to do for some time, so we welcome this recommendation.”

The report makes it clear that, when making decisions about addressing behaviour, head teachers should use their knowledge of individual children, and understand how their policies will impact on pupils from differing groups, and especially those groups that are more vulnerable to exclusion. While the possibility of permanent exclusion should remain ‘as a last resort, when nothing else will do,’ head teachers should consider ‘if there are other, more effective, ways to address the underlying causes and put in place the support a child may need to improve their behaviour, without the need to exclude.’

Mrs Brooks continued: “There is much in the report’s recommendations that will encourage parents and carers of vulnerable children, including the introduction of mandatory training on behaviour as part of initial teacher training, which covers the underlying causes of poor behaviour, including attachment, trauma and speech, language and communications needs. 

“However, this report has been published only a few days after the Department for Education announced a new £10 million fund to help teachers ‘crack down on bad behaviour’, and the establishment of a programme led by Tom Bennett, the Government's behaviour tsar, to gather and disseminate ‘exemplary behaviour management practices’, potentially including centralised detention systems, new sanctions and rewards systems, and training to tackle ‘classroom disruption’.

“The language of the Timpson report, with its emphasis on inclusion and supporting vulnerable students, and that of the behaviour ‘crackdown’ with its emphasis on disruptive pupils and ‘bad behaviour’ seem poles apart, and it remains to be seen how many of Timpson’s recommendations will be adopted in a climate that seems more intent on dealing with the results of behaviour than the causes of it.”

Timpson Exclusions Review Includes Recommendations from Adoption UK Equal Chance Campaign read more