The Scottish government has moved to clarify that school exclusion should only be used as a “last resort”.
A document published yesterday advises that keeping exclusions at a very low level would help give “every child a strong start in life”.
The new guidance “provides clarity that exclusion should only be used as a last resort”.
It also states that “one of the most important predictors of criminal record status is school exclusion by S3” – when pupils are aged 13 or 14 and school-exclusion rates peak in Scotland.
It adds: “Exclusion from school is not in itself a cause of further difficulties in later life, but it is an indicator of other issues which contribute to antisocial behaviour. Giving every child a strong start in life includes meeting the needs of young people who need more choices and chances, and who are at risk of not engaging with or benefiting from compulsory education.”
The document also shows that, according to the most recent available Scottish data, certain groups of pupils are much more likely to be excluded. The exclusion rate for pupils with a recorded disability is more than twice as high as those who do not have a disability, while the exclusion rate for pupils with an additional support need is more than four times higher than those who have no such needs.
The exclusion rate for boys is nearly four times as high as that for girls, while exclusion rates are more than five times higher for pupils living in the most-deprived areas compared with those from the least-deprived areas.
The most recent national statistics on exclusion show that the practice of excluding pupils permanently from their school has almost disappeared in Scotland, with just five cases recorded in 2016-17, down from 60 in 2010-11. Temporary exclusions fell from 26,844 to 18,381 (down by nearly a third) during that period.
However, exclusion expert Sally Power wrote in March that the figures did not tell the full story, as schools in Scotland might be “developing other strategies that effectively exclude students from the mainstream classroom”.
Professor Power still said that the Scottish approach was “divergent” from that in England, where she noted a “reinvigorated traditionalism”, with nearly 7,000 pupils permanently excluded from their school in 2015-16.
Earlier this week, influential supporters of a campaign for a knowledge-rich curriculum in England defended the right of headteachers to exclude pupils.