Statistics published by the Department for Education today show that pupils with statements are nine times more likes to be permanently excluded from school than those pupils without any SEN. Meanwhile, the number of pupils with statements of SEN receiving one or more fixed period exclusions is six times higher than for pupils with no SEN.
The Statistical First Release (SFR) provides information about exclusions from schools and exclusion appeals in England during 2010/11. It reports national trends in the number of permanent and fixed-period exclusions together with information on the characteristics of excluded pupils such as age, gender, ethnicity, free school meal eligibility, and special educational needs (SEN) as well as the reasons for exclusion.
The key points from the latest release are:
- There were 5080 permanent exclusions from state-funded primary, state-funded secondary and all special schools in 2010/11.
- In 2010/11 there were 271,980 fixed-period exclusions from state-funded secondary schools, 37,790 fixed-period exclusions from state-funded primary schools and 14,340-fixed period exclusions from special schools.
- The average length of a fixed-period exclusion in state-funded secondary schools was 2.4 days, for state-funded primary schools the average length of a fixed-period exclusion was 2.1 days.
- The permanent exclusion rate for boys was approximately three times higher than that for girls. The fixed-period exclusion rate for boys was almost three times higher than that for girls.
- Pupils with SEN with statements are around nine times more likely to be permanently excluded than those pupils with no SEN.
- Children who are eligible for free school meals are nearly four times more likely to receive a permanent exclusion and around three times more likely to receive a fixed-period exclusion than children who are not eligible for free school meals.
What are we to make of these statistics? I'm certainly no analyst but the figures surely speak for themselves. Of course, we can't see what kind of SEN we're talking about but the reasons for exclusion included physical or verbal assault against a pupil or adult, bullying or racist abuse and persistent disruptive behaviour among other reasons, most of which contain criminal aspects. These things should not, quite rightly, be tolerated, but it's the reasons behind the category of persistent disruptive behaviour that interests me.
A mainstream school it would seem is, quite often, unable to cope with the high level of demands placed upon it by children with special educational needs and challenging behaviour and for these children, inclusion is the last thing they need. They need a specialised environment that can help them overcome difficulties of background or learning style or hidden disability so they have the same chance of a successful life as everyone else. Timely intervention is crucial for these children so that they can be identified and assisted long before things get to the stage of an exclusion being considered.
When thinking specifically of children with statements, I wonder what percentage of these SEN children, or of children with SEN but without statements, were excluded for persistent disruptive behaviour compared to the other reasons above. A child displaying persistent disruptive behaviour almost certainly has underlying issues, whether BESD, ADHD, ASD etc, that prevents them from accessing the curriculum and hence makes them feel that school is a waste of time.
A large percentage were also recipients of free school meals, which also indicates that poor children (with or without SEN) are hugely at risk of not getting the support they need in a mainstream school environment. Many may come from difficult family backgrounds and would be much more suited to a nurture group environment such as those set up by child psychologist Charlie Mead, if only they existed more widely.
There is much interesting analysis that can be taken from these stats aside from the startling SEN figures, for example the comparatively high ratio of exclusions for traveller children (who may or may not have SEN). These would take far more time to ponder than I have available, but I hope someone does and lets me know.