Support for at-risk pupils reduces number of permanent exclusions, says 3-year DfE study

Support for at-risk pupils reduces number of permanent exclusions, says 3-year DfE study

A study published by the Department for Education (DfE) suggests that permanent exclusions of at-risk children may be reduced when schools are given greater responsibility to meet their needs.

Schools from 11 local authorities took part in a three-year School Exclusion Trial conducted by the Institute of Education, a public research university in London, and the National Foundation for Educational Research, to test the use of zero exclusion policies, early intervention and alternative provisions with the aim of assessing the impact on schools and children at-risk of exclusion.

975,000 people aged 16-24 years were found to be NEET (not in education, employment or training) in the first quarter of 2014. A recent survey found that 7.2% of those had been excluded from school, making it difficult to carry on with education or find gainful employment.

Since September 2011 (ending in August 2014), schools taking part in the trial have been given greater freedoms to commission alternative provisions with an emphasis on reforming the approach that schools are currently taking to those at risk of exclusion.

The trial allowed the interpretation of “greater responsibility” to be left up to each individual school, and to suggest possible frameworks and methods that may be beneficial. The results showed that participating schools were more likely to increase their use of partnerships through collective decision-making and create early intervention programmes to prevent at-risk students from possible exclusion.

Trial schools adopted the use of learning support units (LSU) with some at-risk pupils in receipt of school-home liaison for behaviour management and support. The study showed a “positive impact”, improving attendance, attainment and behaviour of at-risk pupils.

The report concludes: “The change in the numbers of at-risk pupils suggests that the interventions adopted had been successful in improving pupils’ behaviour at least to the extent that they could be removed from this [at-risk] category.”