Excluding a child from school can cost the taxpayer around £370,000 in the long term, a report estimates.
The study, by the IPPR think tank, argues that there is a high economic price to exclusion, costing the public purse money in terms of education, benefits, healthcare and criminal justice.
“As mental ill health in young people rises, and more children are subject to interaction with social care services each year, more vulnerable children spill into the alternative provision sector,” the report states.
“Too often, this path leads them straight from school exclusion to social exclusion.”
Exclusion on the increase
As Tes recently reported, the number of pupils excluded nationally has risen by 10 per cent in the last year. In some areas, it has increased by as much as 300 per cent.
According to official figures, children in England were permanently excluded from school 6,685 times in 2015-16 – equivalent to around 35 a day.
Based on this number, the IPPR calculates that excluding children cost the government around £2.1 billion last year.
This calculation reflects the cost of educating these youngsters in alternative settings to mainstream school, lost taxation from lower future earnings, the higher likelihood of these youngsters going through the criminal justice system, benefits payments and higher average healthcare costs for these young people across their lifetime.
The study goes on to claim that this cost to the taxpayer is likely to be much higher in reality, as there is evidence that thousands of children are being effectively excluded from mainstream schools in ways that are not covered by official government exclusions data.
It argues that there are a number of ways in which children can effectively be excluded from their school, but hidden from the statistics.
For example, a pupil can be moved to a pupil referral unit (PRU) as part of a "managed move" from their school, and this is not counted as a permanent exclusion. But often, the child will end up completing their education in the PRU, the report says.
If a school wants to avoid recording a permanent exclusion, they may encourage a parent to home-school their child, the report claims, and in other cases, off-site alternative provision (alternative education to mainstream school) is used by schools to teach pupils for long period of time.
The study sets out a programme called The Difference, which it says would help to cut exclusions in England and provide a new career route connecting teachers with schools for excluded children.
The charity hopes to increase the number of exceptional teachers and leaders choosing to work in alternative provision.
The thinktank's report, Making the Difference, highlights four educational priorities that it hopes will be tackled by this new charity:
- Improving preventative support for young people with complex needs in mainstream schools.
- Improving the commissioning and oversight of alternative provision for excluded pupils.
- Increasing and then maintaining the supply of exceptional teachers and leaders into alternative provision.
- Improving an understanding of what works, in improving trajectories for excluded young people.
Kiran Gill, associate fellow of the IPPR and founder of The Difference, said that the aim was to raise the status of those teachers working with excluded pupils.
“Too often, the country’s most vulnerable and troubled children become invisible as they are pushed out of the mainstream school system,” she said. “But by not addressing their challenges when they first appear, we are brewing trouble for later.”
The IPPR report proposes that The Difference would address these programmes by recruiting exceptional early careers teachers and placing them in alternative provision. They would then be offered a two-year programme of on-the-job specialist training, accredited at master’s level.
The charity would go on to disseminate advice about how best to support vulnerable and disaffected pupils.
Commenting on the initiative, Sir Kevan Collins, chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: “We know that pupils who are excluded from school are much more likely to come from poorer homes. Outcomes for this group are so bleak we have to be prepared to invest in testing radical approaches and programmes.
“But with the stakes as high as they are for this group of vulnerable learners, it’s essential any new initiative is evaluated carefully so that we can all learn more about what works.”
A Department for Education spokeswoman said the government would review exclusions policy.
She said: "Any decision to exclude a pupil should be lawful, reasonable and fair. We want to ensure we are focusing on the experiences of students who are more likely to be excluded, which is why we have announced a review to improve exclusions and ensure that best practice is shared across the country.
"The government has also committed to bring forward proposals to ensure that alternative provision is the very best that it can be and gives every child the opportunity to fulfil their potential. We will look carefully at the findings of the Institute of Public Policy Research report."