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Belonging, Behaviour and Inclusion in Schools: What Does Research Tell Us?

A Research-based Inquiry undertaken by The Art of Possibilities & UCL, Institute of Education.

Author/s: Dr Tracey Allen, Professor Kathryn Riley, Dr Max Coates


The policy climate is one of pressure on schools not to exclude yet at the same time the rate of exclusion and off-rolling continue to grow, with particular costs for working-class and Black students and students with special educational needs and disabilities

The professional context is a challenging one. Teachers and school leaders report their concerns that they have less time to collaborate and share vital information and understandings about children who are struggling. Potentially, this leaves both students and staff with fragmented advisory and support systems.

The wider environment is also impacting in some very significant ways on the education experience and futures of children and young people and our schools. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected us all but has further amplified very deep rooted inequalities in our communities, as well as in our schools. It has, however, led to broad acknowledgement of education and school life as a fundamental ingredient for healthy and fulfilling lives of children and young people. The death of George Floyd and the activism precipitated by the Black Lives Matter movement has raised compelling questions regarding inclusion, equity and diversity in our schools. Both of these significant phenomena provide us with an opportunity to reflect and look afresh at challenging issues and compel us to arrive at more effective and equitable outcomes.

The aims of this review are to:

  • help broaden and deepen awareness of strategies and evidence beyond sanction-driven approaches towards insight into contextualised and multi-layered interventions and strategies;
  • consider the evidence concerning the relationship between children, young people and teachers and other staff across the whole school who are vital to creating conditions and local systems for belonging to a safe, dynamic and equitable school environment.

The review will make reference to behaviour-focused approaches as well as student engagement approaches more broadly.

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