Permanent exclusions have dropped by 40 per cent across secondary schools in Birmingham after alternative provision was scrapped.
The change came about following a series of “challenging discussions” with headteachers, according to David Bishop, head of service for alternative provision at Birmingham City Council.
He said that the council stopped commissioning AP places for key stage 4 pupils two years ago, when schools were told to find their own solutions.
Since the new model was adopted, permanent exclusions from secondary schools have fallen from 185 to 111.
Meanwhile, the number of pupils below KS4 who are in alternative provision has dropped from 450 to 13, and is set to hit zero in September.
Mr Bishop, a former headteacher, told a conference on alternative provision in central London that the new approach involved "dialogue" with school leaders about the number of exclusions in their schools.
It meant “making sure that everyone is clear about their aims, talking very clearly about the financial effects, talking about exclusions and talking about the alternatives to exclusions", he said.
Cutting school exclusions
Mr Bishop added: “We had fairly challenging discussions about why these exclusions were occurring, and we were talking about children actually going back into the mainstream because the outcomes were much better for the children going back into mainstream school.”
He said £1 million saved as a result of no longer commissioning places for KS4 pupils has been ploughed back to address school attendance in the city, which he said was “out of line” with the rest of the country.
Permanent exclusions across the country have risen by 44 per cent since 2012-2013.
Earlier in the day, the conference heard from Martin Lennon, head of policy at the Office of the Children's Commissioner, who said there was a “big concern” that 43 per cent of those in pupil-referral units who leave AP at 16 go on to become NEET (not in education, employment or training).
This compares with only 6 per cent of pupils at mainstream schools.
Part of Birmingham’s approach is to give local schools training in the adverse childhood experience (ACE) model, which takes account of the effect that trauma can have on a child’s education.
The council also liaises with health, social care and other agencies to try to keep vulnerable children in school.
“This more holistic approach is really important, we think, in actually making sure that children stay in school,” said Mr Bishop.
A “carbon copy” model has been introduced for primary schools in the city, which recently saw a slight rise in exclusions.
The conference was staged by the Westminster Insight Forum and follows the March publication of a government document on AP, Creating Opportunity for All.