Vulnerable children 'condemned to fail' by school exclusions

Report calls for current system to be scrapped as expulsion is linked to poor exam performance
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Permanent school exclusions unfairly punish vulnerable children and should be scrapped, an independent think tank warns today.

More than 75 per cent of children expelled by governors had special educational needs, and more than a quarter of those were on the autistic spectrum, a Demos study finds.

Difficult youngsters would benefit more by remaining the responsibility of their head teacher and given special support within their own school, the report argues. However, a leading teachers' union has countered that calls for the system exclusions to be dumped was "not realistic".

The Demos research found exclusion to be linked to poor exam results. Only 1 per cent of excluded children received the equivalent of five A* to C grades at GCSE level. By comparison, 70 per cent of pupils who remained in school achieved those results, the study found.

The report's author, Sonia Sodha, said: "These figures are shocking and show how badly we are failing to support vulnerable kids.

"Most other countries do not permanently exclude children from school in the way we do. Instead of helping these children we are punishing and then banishing them.

"The system wastes money because it doesn't solve the problem, it just moves it out of sight and out of mind. Kids who get excluded are condemned to fail."

The report claims that excluded children get a far poorer quality of teaching compared with those kept in mainstream classrooms, although three times more money is being spent on children in pupil referral units. Demos calls for the system of permanent exclusion to be abolished. Instead children should be kept in their schools under the responsibility of the head teacher. In addition teachers should be better trained in behavioural management and schools should be given more resources to buy in services for pupils with special needs.

But a teachers' union criticised the report's findings. Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: "This report and its recommendations take a rather simplistic view of a complex problem. It is premised on a belief that children and young people are lost to the system when they are excluded. There is no evidence for this. If it does occur, then the local authority would not be fulfilling its legal duty to provide full-time education."

She accused the think tank of not fully costing its proposals and effectively "signing a blank cheque on the issue".

Ms Keates said many of the proposals recommended in the report – such as using nurture groups and learning mentors – are already used in schools. "Nothing in the report warrants a conclusion that permanent exclusion should be abolished," she said.