Exclusions: Rates down but some excluded over 10 times

Exclusion rates in Scotland continue to fall but some pupils are being excluded multiple times and for long periods

Emma Seith

Exclusions: School exclusions in Scotland are down - but some pupils are being excluded more than 10 times in a year, new figures show

While Scotland has made huge strides in driving down school exclusions, a small number of pupils were excluded more than 10 times last year, new figures published by the Scottish government show.

For some pupils, exclusions from school lasted for more than two weeks.

Scotland’s progress in virtually eradicating permanent exclusions has been lauded, not least by academics on the Excluded Lives research team, which is carrying out a major piece of UK research into the consequences of exclusion.

Figures published in December showed that there were just three permanent exclusions in Scotland last year and 14,987 temporary exclusions, down from a high of 44,546 temporary exclusions in 2005-06 and 18,376 temporary exclusions two years previously. Figures on exclusions are published every second year in Scotland.

Background: Just three pupils permanently excluded in Scotland

Big read: Is Scotland’s school exclusion policy the one the UK should follow?

Related: Scottish schools get rid of exclusion ‘reflex’

Care review: 'Stop excluding looked-after children'

Yesterday, however, a more detailed analysis of last year's exclusion figures was published. These show that while the majority of exclusions in 2018-19 lasted just one or two days, 60 lasted 10 days and 56 lasted more than two weeks, backing up fears that some pupils are getting trapped in a revolving door of exclusion.

A 'revolving door' of school exclusions

The figures also show that while most pupils who were excluded last year were excluded just once, more than 600 were excluded three times; seven pupils were excluded 10 times, and eight pupils were excluded more than 10 times.

From the figures published in December, it was shown that pupils with an additional support need (ASN) were five times more likely to be excluded from school than those without; pupils living in the most deprived areas of Scotland were four times more likely to be excluded than those in the least deprived areas; and boys were three times more likely to be excluded than girls.

The latest statistics also show that 884 looked-after children were excluded from Scottish schools last year, suggesting schools have a way to go before meeting the recommendation from the Care Review – which reported in February – that no looked-after child should be excluded.

The authority most likely to exclude pupils last year was Aberdeen City Council, which recorded 52.9 exclusions per 1,000 pupils – an exclusion rate almost four times that of Glasgow City Council, which recorded 13.8 exclusions per 1,000 pupils. North Lanarkshire recorded 35 exclusions per 1,000 pupils and Midlothian 30.6.

The authority with the lowest rate of exclusion was Clackmannanshire with 1.2 exclusions per 1,000 pupils; the average rate of exclusion was 21.6.

Last year, Glasgow’s director of education, Maureen McKenna, told Tes Scotland that when she took over in 2007, exclusions were a “habit” and a “reflex reaction” to challenging behaviour in schools, but now decisions were made in a more “child-centred way”. However, she also said that exclusions would never be eradicated because sometimes for safety reasons pupils would have to be removed.

The three most common reasons for excluding pupils last year were general or persistent disobedience, verbal abuse of staff and physical assault with no weapon.

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Emma Seith

Emma Seith

Emma Seith is a reporter for TES Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Emma_Seith

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