Schools that permanently exclude pupils should be made to pay for the costs of reintegrating them into other provision, according to a report by London councils.
Education authorities in the capital have also called for regional schools commissioners to be held to account for tackling poor admissions practice and off-rolling of pupils with SEND from academies.
London councils have warned there are “too many examples of unfair admissions practice, off-rolling and inappropriate exclusions” of pupils with SEND in the capital.
The local authorities have now made a series of recommendations to make mainstream schools more inclusive, in a report published today.
It includes calling on Ofsted not to give "outstanding" grades to schools unless they can demonstrate they are inclusive to pupils with SEND.
The councils say that requiring schools to meet the costs of new provision for excluded pupils would “disincentivise” them from permanently excluding before trying other options.
“This would help create a more inclusive culture within schools” the report adds.
It says: "Putting in place a bespoke package of support is expensive for schools, whereas permanently excluding costs the school nothing."
The London Council report follows several calls from town hall leaders for the school system to be made more inclusive.
The Local Government Association, which represents education authorities across the country, has called for mainstream schools to be given incentives and be checked to ensure that they support more children with SEND.
And Rachel Dickinson, the new president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said headteachers' powers to exclude should be reviewed because she fears the system has lost all sight of inclusion.
The London Council report makes a series of recommendations for both Ofsted and the government.
The report calls on Ofsted to:
- Challenge schools that have a below local average number of children on the SEN register at a school.
- Examine school admissions policy to ensure it does not discriminate against children with SEND.
- Ensuring that schools without evidence of inclusive SEND practice are not awarded an outstanding Ofsted rating.
Its recommendations for the government include:
- Providing an increase in high-needs funding allocations to meet the rise in demand and costs.
- Giving schools a “clearer policy steer” on inclusion of children with SEND in mainstream schools
- Introduce a specific inclusion fund to facilitate more inclusion in schools.
The London councils' report follows the government’s recent announcement of an extra £700 million for the high-needs block.
The report says its recommendations show how targeted investment and other commitments can improve inclusivity in the capital’s schools.
It also highlights examples of how schools and councils in the capital are using a range of innovative strategies to meet the needs of children with SEND, if they wish to attend their local mainstream school.
Councillor Nickie Aiken, London Councils’ executive member for schools and children’s services, said: “It’s inspiring that so many councils and schools in London are already positive about supporting children with SEND – delivering on their legal duty to ensure education is inclusive.
“However, we cannot yet guarantee that all schools in London are inclusive. All too often, children with SEND end up being excluded or off-rolled rather than being offered the support they need.
“The chancellor’s funding increase for schools is very welcome and removes one of the major obstacles to inclusion – it’s clear that the government wants us all to raise our expectations and ensure our education system is inclusive by default.
“The number of children with SEND in London has grown in recent years, so now is the time for all education partners to strengthen our collective commitment to ensuring education is truly inclusive.”
There are currently 211,772 children in London with SEND – 46,576 have Education, Health and Care Plans and 165,196 are receiving special educational needs support.
The majority – almost 172,000 pupils – attend mainstream primary or secondary schools.