Edward Timpson’s long-awaited report into school exclusions is finally published today.
The review was set up 14 months ago, and received almost 1,000 submissions of evidence and made more than 100 visits.
Today, the former education minister is setting out 30 recommendations, which the Department for Education says it has agreed in principle. Here are the key points:
Make schools accountable for pupils they exclude
In its most widely anticipated recommendation, the report says that the “DfE should make schools responsible for the children they exclude and accountable for their educational outcomes”.
Neither Timpson nor the DfE have set out options for how this could work in practice. Instead, the DfE will launch a consultation in the autumn.
Off-rolling: Home-educated pupils to get ‘right to return’ to their school
Quick read: Call to tighten fixed-term exclusions limit
The report says that to ensure schools can deliver on this responsibility, they should have greater control over alternative-provision (AP) funding, and enough money to put in place “alternative interventions that avoid the need for exclusion where appropriate”.
Limits on fixed-term exclusions
As expected, the final version of the report backs headteachers’ powers to exclude pupils “where this is appropriate”. As Tes revealed last month, publication had been delayed by a behind-the-scenes struggle over whether it should go further in curtail schools’ permanent exclusion powers.
However, the report does raise concerns that pupils who receive a lot of fixed-period exclusions miss out on education, and Mr Timpson said such exclusions can become “a bit of a revolving door” that fail to address underlying causes of poor behaviour.
His report calls for the DfE to consult on reducing the current 45-day limit on the number of fixed-period exclusions a pupil can have in a single year (although it does not suggest what the new limit should be) or consult on "revisiting the requirements to arrange AP in these periods”.
Off-rolling was not part of Timpson’s original terms of reference, but the report says public concern about the issue was “reinforced by what the review has seen and heard”.
A number of recommendations touch on off-rolling, including:
- Introducing systematic tracking of pupil moves, with councils “taking action where necessary”;
- Ofsted giving schools that off-roll an “inadequate” judgement for leadership and management in “all but exceptional cases”;
- Introducing a “right of return” so that children who go into home education can return to their previous school within a certain period of time;
- Social workers being notified whenever a Child in Need is moved out of their school.
A stronger role for local authorities
The report highlights the importance of councils, saying that the DfE should “clarify the powers of LAs to act as advocates for vulnerable children, working with mainstream, special and AP schools and other partners to support children with additional needs or who are at risk of leaving their school, by exclusion or otherwise”.
It says councils should be enabled to convene “meaningful local forums” that meet regularly and which all schools are expected to attend. These would review data on pupil needs and moves, and be responsible for planning and funding local alternative provision.
And it says pupil moves should be “systematically tracked”, and local authorities should work with schools to identify trends, “taking action where necessary and ensuring children are receiving suitable education at their destination”.
Unions say funding cuts have meant schools have had to reduce support for vulnerable pupils, driving the increase in exclusions.
Mr Timpson acknowledges the challenge of funding, but says that the good practice he saw in some schools shows “it is possible” to do things well in the current climate.
His report calls for the creation of a new Practice Improvement Fund to help councils and schools deliver good interventions for children who need support; investment in buildings and facilities for pupils who need AP; and enough funding for schools to put in place interventions needed to avoid exclusions.
It also wants schools to be able to access the government’s £200 million Youth Endowment Fund to test ways of preventing children getting involved in crime and violence.
The report says the DfE should “ensure there is well-evidenced, meaningful and accessible training and support for new and existing school leaders to develop, embed and maintain positive behaviour cultures”.
It welcomes the £10 million strategy outlined by the DfE over the weekend.
It also calls for “accessible, meaningful and substantive training on behaviour” to be a mandatory part of initial teacher training, and embedded in the Early Career Framework. And it says this should include expert training on the underlying causes of poor behaviour, as well as strategies to deal with it when it arises.
In-school units and off-site alternative provision
MPs on the Commons Education Select Committee heard concerns about schools putting some pupils in units on their premises, or on off-site alternative provision.
This is an issue Timpson also considered. The report wants a requirement on schools to submit information about pupils who are in off-site AP through the school census, and social workers to be notified when a Child in Need is moved into such provision.
It also recommends that the DfE “strengthen guidance so that in-school units are always used constructively and are supported by good governance”.