A pioneering plan to give schools more responsibility over the fate of excluded pupils has cut the number of expulsions, according to research published today.
A trial of the scheme carried out in 11 local authorities led to fewer pupils from the schools who took part in the plan being sent home than in those which were not part of the programme.
One of the factors, according to research carried out by the highly respected Institute of Education and National Foundation for Education Research, was that many of the schools kept a “dual registration” of the pupils, ensuring they remained on their books whilst they were being taught in alternative provision, such as a pupil referral unit.
The school, therefore, still had responsibility for their academic achievement which meant “schools were concerned that pupils had good academic results”.
“Where pupils are dually registered, their attainment counts towards the mainstream school’s performance measures and their education would be considered as part of any inspection of the mainstream school,” the report added.
In addition, schools were likely to achieve more appropriate alternative provision for pupils they knew, either in pupil referral units, further education colleges, or even in “time out” facilities within the school where they could be taught on their own.
One school in the trial even set up its own alternative provision for disruptive pupils which could then be used by other schools.
In the past, schools would exclude pupils, and then local authorities would come in and find a suitable placement.
One head teacher, talking of three pupils who would have been permanently excluded under the old system, said: “If I had excluded them, they would have gone to the PRU anyway but what we would have lost is their sense that they still belong to our school and that we cared about them.
They added: “A lot of these children are vulnerable and working with them this way, they know that the school did its best by them and they will have more chance to contribute to society later on if we don’t exclude them.”
Now the scheme may be taken up in more local authorities as a result of its success.
“The trial shows that giving schools, rather than local authorities, greater control of the funding for excluded pupils encourages them to address behavioural problems earlier,” said a spokesman for the Department for Education.
“This report will act as a hugely valuable guide for other schools and local authorities who want to adopt this model.”