The House of Commons Education Committee has published their report on alternative provision and the scandal of ever increasing exclusions.
The report is very interesting and thorough. It considers that mainstream schools should be the "bastions of inclusion" but recognises the fact that this is not always the case. "Hidden exclusions" have also been addressed and considered along side the lack of information for parents and children.
It is concerning to note how sharply the number of exclusions has risen and the disproportionate number of children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) that are being excluded. Even more concerning is the finding that some schools are actively avoiding identifying these pupils with SEN. This means that pupils are not receiving appropriate education and are not being supported.
The report has found instances of outstanding alternative provision but it seems that there is a lack of readily available information, a lack of accountability and a lack of understanding in the school system generally.
The recommendation of a "Bill of Rights" for pupils and parents is likely to be a welcome one with some of the rights as follows:
- Schools should not rush to exclude.
- Parents should know how often schools exclude pupils.
- Parents should be given more information when their child is excluded and should have an advocate.
- Families should be given accurate information about alternative provisions.
- Independent review panels should be able to direct a school to reinstate a pupil.
It is pleasing that this subject has been investigated so thoroughly and that the issues that parents have been facing have been recognised. Hopefully this is the catalyst for some real change in the system to ensure that all pupils receive the same quality education and get the support they require.
According to the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), some groups of children are more likely to be educated in alternative provision, or excluded, than other children. Children in care, children in need, children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and children in poverty are all more likely to be excluded than their peers. Pupils with SEN support are almost seven times more likely to be permanently excluded than pupils with no SEN. Boys are more likely to be permanently excluded than girls; for every girl permanently excluded last year, over three boys were permanently excluded. Some ethnicities are disproportionately represented in alternative provision, including Black Caribbean, Irish traveller heritage and Gypsy Roma heritage pupils.