Permanent exclusions in London secondary schools have increased by more than a quarter in the last three years for which data is available, according to new analysis by the London Assembly.
In 2016-17, there were 980 permanent exclusions in London secondary schools – a 26 per cent increase on the 780 recorded in 2013-14.
The number of fixed-term exclusions meanwhile rose 8 per cent from 34,965 in 2013-14 to 37,790 in 2016-17.
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According to the report from the London Assembly’s education panel, the rate of exclusion in London secondary schools was in long term decline but has now risen every year since 2013.
The report says the increase in exclusions is being driven partly by “the rise in support required for an increasing number of children with complex needs and the difficulties that schools have in meeting them”.
But it also raises concerns about the “disproportionate exclusion rates for certain groups”, which it says could be evidence that “either schools may be failing to adequately support certain learners, or that behaviour management systems inadvertently discriminate against some pupils”.
Black children and Gypsy and Roma children are consistently overrepresented in exclusion figures, as are those eligible for free school meals, pupils with special educational needs and disability and looked after children.
The report says: “Stakeholders told us that unconscious bias should be explicitly addressed in teacher training, and that there was a need for ongoing and open conversations in schools so staff could gain a better understanding of how unconscious bias plays out in a classroom.”
It also raises concerns about “zero-tolerance behaviour policies”. While such policies “can provide boundaries that enable the majority of pupils to flourish”, the authors say they “heard that in some cases these policies escalated issues leading to rapid exclusions which could have been avoided if the school had recognised and attempted to address the underlying causes of difficult behaviour”.
The education panel recommends that the Mayor of London should provide help to prevent unnecessary exclusions, review the supply of centres that specialise in supporting those at risk of exclusion, and “actively monitor and challenge hidden exclusions”.
Panel chair Jennette Arnold said: “Young people who have challenging behaviours must not be brushed to the side via hidden exclusions or bare minimum support. Instead, they need even more support than the average pupil.
“We have a duty to these students because letting them down has wide-ranging consequences we need to consider seriously.”