A leading council director has questioned whether headteachers’ powers to exclude should be reviewed after warning the education system has lost sight of inclusion.
Rachel Dickinson, the president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, has highlighted “the rising tide of exclusions”, and suggested curtailing schools' powers to exclude.
“I may be about to make myself very unpopular here, but I wonder if it might be time to review headteachers’ powers to exclude pupils," she told her association's annual conference yesterday.
Investigation: Details of back door exclusions revealed
Quick read: Timpson Review at a glance
Opinion: Is Ofsted tackling off-rolling?
Ms Dickinson, who is the director of children’s services at Barnsley Council, also said she hoped Ofsted’s new inspection framework would shine a light on the way pupils are excluded from schools.
“I strongly believe that the government’s education reforms have completely lost sight of inclusion. Education is a right for all, not a privilege for some," she said. "It’s also an important protective factor in childhood and beyond.
“The new school inspection framework should shine a bright light on the use of formal and informal exclusions and will hopefully incentivise or better still reward inclusivity and turn the tide on rising exclusions."
She added: "Inclusivity as opposed to exclusion; inclusivity as opposed to specialist provision; and, inclusivity in the curriculum – not a curriculum that is narrow and unfit for the purpose in preparing our young people for life and work in the 21st century.”
Today, a Tes investigation reveals that almost one-fifth of local education authorities in England have reported concerns about a rise in the number of pupils being removed from schools to be home-educated, with several of them specifically referring to concerns about off-rolling.
Earlier this week, former Department for Education minister Edward Timpson faced MPs questions over his recent landmark review into exclusions.
However, it is understood that the publication of the review was delayed by a behind-the-scenes struggle over whether it should go further in curtailing schools’ permanent exclusion powers.
Taking MPs questions this week, he said schools could be held accountable for the attendance levels of pupils they exclude.
The DfE has said that it “agreed to all 30 recommendations in principle”, but Mr Timpson told the Commons Education Select Committee on Tuesday that he had no “cast-iron guarantees” that the government was going to fund their implementation.
Ofsted has vowed to crack down on off-rolling through its new inspection framework. It has already identified off-rolling at five schools under the current inspection system.