ASCL response to Timpson review of school exclusion

07 May 2019

Commenting on the Timpson Review of School Exclusion, Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

“We are pleased that Edward Timpson’s review, and the Education Secretary’s response, support the right of school leaders to exclude pupils as a last resort. No decision is harder than the decision to exclude. It is never taken lightly, and it is a matter over which school leaders agonise. However, it is sometimes necessary to exclude a pupil in order to maintain a safe and orderly environment for other pupils and for school staff.

“Mr Timpson makes it clear that permanent exclusion remains a rare event, and we welcome the considered and measured tone of his report in seeking to provide schools with more support to improve practice further. Plans to rewrite existing guidance to provide more clarity on the use of exclusion, and to ensure other relevant guidance is clear and consistent, together with recommendations on more training and support, are eminently sensible.

“He recommends also that schools should be made accountable for the outcomes of permanently excluded pupils in order to reward positive and inclusive school cultures. Any such measure will need to be carefully considered to ensure that it is sensible, fair and fit-for-purpose. For example, to what extent would it be reasonable to hold a school accountable for the GCSE results of a pupil who had been excluded several years earlier? ASCL is currently considering how an ‘inclusive accountability’ system might work and we look forward to discussing this proposal with the Department for Education. It is vital that any new accountability measure is trusted and supported by schools.

“It is disappointing that the issue of school funding has not been given anywhere near enough weight in Mr Timpson’s report and has been entirely ignored in the Department for Education’s response. The current level of funding is so desperately inadequate that many schools have had to cut back on support staff who provide early intervention to children with challenging behaviour. This makes it more difficult to prevent challenging behaviour escalating to the point of exclusion, and we believe this has fuelled the rise in the rate of exclusions in recent years. Schools must have the funding they so clearly need.

“It is also disappointing that the Department for Education’s response over boosting the availability of high-quality alternative provision is so woolly. Mr Timpson makes it very clear in his report that it is vital to attract and develop more great teachers and leaders in alternative provision, and that more investment is needed in buildings and facilities. This is important first and foremost to ensure the best possible provision for all excluded pupils, but also because it is not reasonable to make schools responsible for the outcome of excluded pupils if they struggle to access good alternative provision. The Department’s vague assertions over these matters are not good enough.

“We welcome the fact that Mr Timpson has been clear that exclusions should not be conflated with the illegitimate practice of off-rolling, whereby a school encourages a parent to withdraw their child in order to improve the performance of the school. As Mr Timpson says, off-rolling is quite simply wrong. We believe it is a practice which is rare, but it should not happen at all, and we support all efforts to ensure that no pupil is ever off-rolled.”