This week The Evening Standard has been running a week long investigation into the high rates of exclusions in schools across the UK.
They have found a 70% increase in permanent exclusions in England since 2012/13, which they say has contributed significantly to an increase in knife crime in London, up 53% since 2014.
Not only have exclusions increased significantly, but many have gone unrecorded under the administrative category “Managed Moves”. The actual number of permanent exclusions may be twice as many.
Pupils who are excluded are often transferred to Pupil Referral Units, which, despite the best efforts of staff and support groups, often make the problem worse. The security is prison like, and bringing lots of troubled kids under one roof makes rehabilitation difficult.
Another issue is that the PRUs don’t keep children in school for a full day, leaving them vulnerable to gangs looking for mules to recruit in county line drug operations.
The final kick in the teeth is the poor exam results of PRU educated children. 96% of pupils at PRUs fail their exams, at a cost of £18-24000 a year. This is the same cost as most fee paying independent schools.
Experimentation in Glasgow has led the way in reforming this system. There they have abolished most of the PRUs and used the money to start inclusion units on site. These are places for disruptive pupils to attend, therefore keeping them in school without affecting the education of other pupils. It has allowed teachers investigate the reasons behind behaviour rather than let children become another person’s problem.
The Evening Standard has simultaneously announced a response to the issue by providing a £1million grant to schools in London. This will be in the form of up to £150,000 per school over three years, primarily towards the salary costs of a member of staff dedicated to improving inclusion.
The impetus for this scheme has been the success of London schools who have adopted the Glasgow model. They have started successful inclusion units on the main site to reduce the effects of disruptive behaviour and help children within school hours. The success has led one headteacher to fiercely protect the inclusion budget despite cuts piling on massive pressure elsewhere. His belief remains that education is for every child.
Over this week we have been following the investigation and researching the work of other charities in the education sector, especially those who work with PRUs. We have found charities like COVO, LEAP, The Difference and Groundwork are working within the current system and offering vital support to excluded children.
The Evening Standard grant is a significant step, however, it will only stretch from around 1.5-3.5% of total state schools going by current numbers. Crucially, it is the Department of Education that must push for reform.
This leaves plenty of space for us to begin working on a service for the excluded in our local boroughs. In the coming month we will be researching the issues affecting our local boroughs of Wandsworth and Hounslow, places we believe we can make an impact.
St Giles Trust Charity