Minister worried about schools 'gaming' the exclusions system

Lord Agnew tells MPs that schools should not be able to exclude pupils citing the reason 'other'

John Roberts

John Roberts

Lord Agnew voices fears that schools are gaming the exclusions system

An education minister had admitted he is "worried" that schools are gaming the exclusion system because the way they are recorded is “labyrinthine”.

Lord Agnew told MPs today that he agreed that schools should not be able to exclude pupils under the reason of “other” after being told it accounted for one in five exclusions.

At an education select committee hearing this morning, James Frith MP asked if Lord Agnew and national schools commissioner Dominic Herrington supported the removal of the category "other" as one of the reasons a school can cite in excluding a child.  

Quick read: Schools to be held accountable for off-rolled and excluded pupils 

BackgroundExclusions review will look at off-rolling

Analysis: Are one in 12 pupils being off-rolled?

Lord Agnew replied: “Yes, I do. I entirely support that. I am worried about the gaming of the coding system for non-attendance. It is completely labyrinthine. A number of the codes don’t have to be reported.

“There is something called a B or a D code which is that a child is sent home to work at home – well, what the hell does that mean?”

Earlier this year, Ofsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman told MPs on the select committee that it was “completely extraordinary” that the reason given for one in five permanent exclusions in Department for Education statistics was recorded as “other”.

Lord Agnew also indicated during today’s hearing that schools are set to be held to account for pupils who leave them.

He said that one of the recommendations of the Timpson Review, which is due to be published shortly, is that pupils’ progress should stay with the school after they have left.

Lord Agnew and Mr Herrington were facing MPs' questions about off-rolling and exclusion.

Tes revealed last week that the Timpson Review into these issues has been delayed because of a behind-the-scenes struggle over proposals to curtail schools’ exclusion powers.

Several sources who have seen drafts of the report said that Edward Timpson – the former Tory children’s minister leading the review – was minded to take an aggressive stance on limiting headteachers’ powers.

However, this had been resisted by education ministers, and such an idea will not feature in the final report, Tes has been told.

One source told Tes that there would also be a recommendation that “there had to be more clarity for headteachers about the circumstances of exclusions”, and that the report would emphasise that “we need to look strongly at AP – what it involves, what’s good AP, and making sure that children end up in destinations that are educationally and morally appropriate for them”.

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