Stop excluding children in care, says review

Call for schools to halt ‘restrictive, humiliating and stigmatising’ behaviour management of children in care

Emma Seith

Children in care: Schools should stop excluding looked-after pupils, says review

Schools should stop excluding looked-after children and avoid reductions in these pupils' timetables that mean they are “denied their rights to education”, according to an independent review of the care system.

The report from the Care Review – which is the culmination of over two years' work in which the experiences of 2,600 young people and care-experienced adults were listened to – also calls on schools to stop exacerbating the trauma of looked-after children by imposing consequences for challenging behaviour that “are restrictive, humiliating and stigmatising”, including seclusion and restraint and the use of “certain behaviour reward systems”.

The figures: Just three pupils permanently excluded in Scotland

Education outcomes: The attainment gap for looked-after children

Advice: 7 ways teachers can help looked-after children

Background: Mentoring is giving voice to ‘drowned-out dreams’

One member of the Care Review team,  Laura Beveridge, told Tes Scotland that she was excluded from school on a weekly basis as a teenager living in residential accommodation, and this was still the experience of many looked-after children.

Supporting children in care

Official figures published in December showed that Scotland had all but wiped out permanent exclusions but there were 21.7 cases of fixed-term exclusion per 1,000 pupils last year (2018-19).

A breakdown of this data has yet to be published but the 2016-17 figures show that while most pupils who were temporarily excluded were excluded just once during the school year, a small number were excluded more than 10 times.

The report says: “Scotland must not exclude care-experienced children from education or reduce their timetable to such an extent that they are denied their rights to education.”

It continues: “Schools in Scotland must also not exacerbate the trauma of children by imposing consequences for challenging behaviour that are restrictive, humiliating and stigmatising. This includes seclusion or restraint and can include certain use of behaviour reward systems. Scotland must properly support and resource the workforce to step in to put theory into good practice by supporting and building relationships with children.”

The report also recommends that schools “develop mentoring relationships for those who would benefit”.

It adds: “Mentoring has a significant positive impact on children and young people who receive it, with evidence that it can improve educational attainment.”

The entrepreneur Iain MacRitchie set up mentoring programme MCR Pathways in 2007 at St Andrew’s Secondary in Glasgow, after he became “possessed” by the fact that outcomes for care-experienced young people had not improved for 30 years “irrespective of lots of people trying”.

Figures from MCR Pathways show that, of the 76 mentored young people who left Glasgow schools in 2017, 86 per cent were in jobs, college or university, up from 81 per cent the previous year. For non-mentored, care-experienced school leavers, that figure was 50 per cent.

*For more on school exclusions, see the new Tes and Tes Scotland, out on Friday 7 February

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Emma Seith

Emma Seith

Emma Seith is a reporter for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Emma_Seith

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