Who is excluded, and which groups of young people are over-represented in the exclusion statistics, tells us about inequality and social exclusion in society. There are many policy decisions made at national level which impact on whether we are building the capacity of the education system to ensure inclusion.
Affirming young people and their backgrounds, and ensuring the curriculum is relevant and accessible, is vital in reducing exclusions, but so is investing in staff development and creating a research-informed profession.
We think that proper support for children and young people at risk of exclusion requires:
- greater funding for students on pupil premium, students with SEND and looked after children.
- reversal to the education cuts which have forced schools and colleges to reduce pastoral systems.
- dedicated posts in schools for mentors, counsellors and family support workers to ensure individual support and positive relationships with a named staff member.
- a flexible curriculum, relevant and properly representative of a diverse Britain.
- multi-agency working with a team around each child at risk of exclusion.
- collaboration between mainstream schools and pupil referral units, because staff in alternative provision are a repository of expertise and skills which can be offered to mainstream schools.
The NEU wants to shape the future of the education system and to prevent and reduce exclusions. We want to highlight, explore and raise awareness of the inequalities and patterns of discrimination which affect who is excluded – including poverty, racism, stereotypes about gender and LGBT+ students, and the patterns of SEND. We want to provide materials and advice to help NEU members reflect on these issues in their setting and develop collaborative responses, which value staff safety and agency for children and young people.
Zero tolerance approach to behaviour management
'Zero tolerance' can sound appealing and effective in terms of an approach to achieving consistent practice across a school. Ensuring staff feel safe at work is vital, and creating a positive learning environment is the right goal. However, there is evidence that zero tolerance approaches can drive up exclusions, and the race and class disparities regarding who is excluded are concerning. It does not support young people to stay engaged in education or develop the skills they need.