The story of school exclusions in this country seems to expose the powerlessness of low income families like no other. Indeed it is a story which, if we swapped the economic status of the central characters, would not exist. Some of the emerging numbers are deeply worrying:
- The number of students experiencing fixed term exclusions in this country has risen by 9000. These students are 3x more likely to be from low income families.
- 300 extra students from low income families have been permanently excluded making this group 4x more likely to be excluded than other groups.
- If you have a special educational need you are 2-7 times more likely to be permanently excluded. Between 2015-2016 the number of local authority refusals for assessment of these needs has increased by 35%. Even if your needs have been assessed, the likelihood that you have still received no extra provision has doubled in the last year. This is the impact of a sustained attack on local authority budgets.
- 1 in 2 of those permanently excluded has a mental health issue.
The moment a child is stuck in the exclusion cycle the quality of their education plummets. A new organisation being established by Kiran Gill, The Difference, is dedicated to changing this. But at the moment, we are taking away their opportunity to be part of our society’s solutions. We consign them to being a problematic government statistic- whether in the world of healthcare, employment, or even worse, prison. The sad thing is these students are so often completely unaware of their future chances. As part of my training I had a placement in an outstanding pupil referall units- many of the students I spoke to were proud of the series of events or episodes that lead to their exclusion. This could partly be a coping strategy, but in some cases I think genuinely reflected the fact that these students do not fully appreciate the extent to which their opportunities have been narrowed.
IPPR will soon be releasing a report on the impact of this on wider society which, whilst obviously important, should be completely beside the point. No one born with a mental health problem, special educational need, or from a low income families, should be treated with such contempt by our society. The question has now become urgent: what is driving the increase in these exclusions and how do we stop it?