Justine Greening has said that the school accountability system should be looked at to ensure schools make “sensible decisions” about removing pupils from their rolls.
The education secretary also told a conference organised by the Social Mobility Commission that controversial plans to overhaul the school funding system were “at the heart” of the government’s drive to improve social mobility.
Asked this morning about research suggesting that some schools "manage out" children to improve their league table positions, Ms Greening highlighted the number of pupils with special education needs who are in alternative provision.
She said there was “a lot more work to be done” to understand how at a local level schools can take the right decisions about where a child should be educated.
She said it was “striking” that of about 40,000 children in alternative provision, 80 per cent had a SEN diagnoses of some sort.
“The challenge is that it often evidences itself in behavioural issues,” she said. “Yet if it evidences itself in any other form there would be a different approach.
“I think it is time that we look at these children and look more carefully at what we can do to make sure that the underlying causes of that behaviour are effectively addressed, and from that you can then work back to get a sense of what is the right setting, and how you can then align the accountability system to support sensible decisions.”
Funding formula is 'about fairness'
She defended the government’s controversial plans for a national schools funding formula, which have come under attack from an increasing number of Conservative MPs.
Ms Greening said we would never tackle “the causes or consequences of a divided country” unless the government “drilled down into the factors that have concentrated poor educational outcomes and lack of capacity” in parts of the country.
“So we are introducing a national fairer funding formula for schools which is finally going to address that historic and unfair postcode lottery in how schools' funding is distributed in England,” she said.
“It’s difficult, but is absolutely at the heart of how we need to level up the different parts of our country.”
In her speech, the minister only made passing reference to Theresa May’s flagship grammar schools proposals.
Challenged afterwards about the role of selection in improving social mobility, she said the government was looking at “a new model of how grammar schools can work".
She told the conference: “We do want to make sure that the new grammars work effectively, collaboratively, to overall lift attainment, absolutely, and that’s why there is so much work going on right now to make sure that what we bring forward will be a new model of how selection can work, one that works constructively to generally raise attainment.”
Want to keep up with the latest education news and opinion? Follow Tes on Twitter and like Tes on Facebook