Government review on school exclusions raises alarm over high proportion of pupils with SEND affected

We are pleased to see that the government inquiry on school exclusions, led by former children’s minister Edward Timpson, has published its findings in a much anticipated review.  

Timpson Review of School Exclusions: Key Findings

The review’s findings identify children with special education needs and disability to be at high risk of being excluded from school. 78% of permanent exclusions related to pupils with SEN, or classified as being ‘in need’.  In light of this finding, the review called for greater support for schools to help them understand and respond to the needs of children who are at risk of being excluded, especially those with SEND.

The report also emphasised the necessity of schools themselves to put in place effective support to help pupils overcome the barriers they face in meeting the expectations of school community. Without this, disabled children and young people, and those with SEN face a higher chance of exclusion, and poorer outcomes.

A second concerning yet persistent trend highlighted by the review is the practice of  ‘off-rolling’, which refers to unofficially excluding children and young people, who effectively stop (or are asked to stop) attending school. The scale and extent of off-rolling is currently unclear, but the review captured anecdotal evidence and reports of pupils being removed from school rolls without valid reasons.

Another key finding of the review was significant variation in exclusion practice, with some schools excluding a much higher proportion of their pupils than others. The review consequently calls for more action to ensure that every exclusion is ‘lawful and fair’, with permanent exclusion always being the last resort.

CDC’s response

The disproportionate impact of exclusions in schools on disabled children is an unsurprising yet deeply troubling finding, which threatens to compromise life outcomes for vulnerable children who need our support.

We welcome the attention to a number of schools’ persistent employment of off-rolling, which is not only an illegal practice, but deeply damaging to outcomes for vulnerable children. 

Our Director, Dame Christine Lenehan, was an independent member of the advisory group to the Review responded:

 “I welcome this important review. All children, whatever their needs, are entitled to an education which gives them the best outcomes. This review takes a serious look at making that happen and supporting schools and local authorities as partners in the process. I look forward to seeing its recommendations translate into full implementation.”

Our colleagues at the National Children’s Bureau also responded to the review. The Chief Executive Anna Feuchtwang, of the National Children’s Bureau, said:

“The Timpson Review of exclusions comes at crucial time for our most vulnerable children: permanent exclusions are on the rise; a growing number of children are being educated in pupil referral units; and an increasing number of parents are seeing home education as the only option for their child with special educational needs.”

We support our colleagues at the National Children’s Bureau, who are calling for the government to acknowledge that exclusions are a symptom of wider problems that children’s services are facing - rising child poverty, a social care system that is on the brink of collapse, and less support for children with special educational needs - and put children at the heart of the upcoming spending review.

The full review can be read here.