Stop discarding troubled students who don't perform - it's destroying children's lives

The government’s plan to expand alternative provision will only encourage unscrupulous schools to cleanse classes of underperforming students, writes Chris Bagley

Tuesday 18 February 2020 15:57
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Every once in a while, a news story hits a nerve. It condenses decades of debate and indignation into a few paragraphs. In October 2019, a report written by the Gorse Academies Trust, outlining a plan to improve the school’s attainment figures, describes “underperforming” students as “anchors” – unwanted cargo weighing the school down – and promotes off-rolling these students to an alternative school provision, “before they become an issue”.

The report recommends approaching “the problem of results with no preconceived ideas or ethical considerations” and reveals the ugliest symptoms of decades of market forces in education. It reads like a guide to school improvement minus moral decency. An ethics-free manual of how to win at the expense of vulnerable children. Promoting the expansion of alternative provisions run by academy trusts (education outside mainstream schools for students, often due to behaviour difficulties or following exclusion) directly incentivises this approach. Yet as indicated by Lord Agnew more recently, the government continues to support the policy.

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