The Timpson review into school exclusions has been published, with over 30 recommendations being made by Edward Timpson, the former MP and children and families minister. Mr Timpson was commissioned in March 2018 by education secretary Damian Hinds to review the use of school exclusions.

In conducting the review Timpson drew on data showing that 85 per cent of all mainstream schools did not permanently exclude a single child in the 2016/17 academic year. However, in the same year there were 0.2 per cent of schools which excluded more than 10 pupils. It was also found that vulnerable groups of children were more likely to be excluded, with 78 per cent of permanent exclusions issued to children who had special educational needs (SEN), or classified as in need or eligible for free school meals.

Among the 30 recommendations are that schools should remain responsible for the children they exclude, including being accountable for their subsequent educational outcomes. Timpson found that of those reaching the end of Key Stage 4 in 2015/16 , just 7 per cent of children who were permanently excluded and 18 per cent of children who received multiple fixed period exclusions went on to achieve good passes in English and maths GCSEs, while over one third of children who completed Key Stage 4 in alternative provision (AP) go on to be NEET (not in education, employment or training). 

Timpson also warned that many schools were struggling to meet the needs of looked after children, saying that schools face a ‘particular challenge in recognising, understanding and meeting the needs of children in, or on the edge of, the care system’. He suggested that ‘poorly understood interventions’ had the potential to make matters worse, and urged schools to ‘act immediately’ to better understand the context of looked after children, including developing ‘inclusive whole school approaches’ and ‘targeted specialist interventions’. 

The review also found that there was evidence that at least a small minority of schools were engaging in ‘off-rolling’ - in which children are asked to leave a school permanently but without a formal exclusion or proper processes being followed. Timpson recommends that in inspections Ofsted should routinely consider whether there is evidence of off-rolling, and where it is found to be happening the school’s leadership and management should be judged inadequate ‘in all but exceptional cases’. He also warned that tackling off-rolling could lead to a rise in formal exclusions, but that ensuring all exclusions had gone through proper processes should be seen as ‘positive progress’.

Speaking about the review Edward Timpson said ‘Throughout this review I have found too much variation in the use of exclusions and too many missed opportunities for children to remain in the education that best suits their needs. Although I did see examples of schools using exclusions appropriately and effectively, there is clear room for improvement and everyone – from teachers and parents, the Department for Education and Ofsted, to local authorities and children’s services - has their part to play.’

Responding to the review Damian Hinds said that the government would accept all 30 recommendations ‘in principle’. The government also confirmed that it will launch a consultation later this year on strengthening schools’ accountability around the use of exclusions, including how to make schools accountable in the most effective and fair way.

Commenting on the review, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said ‘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’. Regarding the proposal to make schools accountable for the results of excluded pupils Mr Barton said ‘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?’

Full review report: https://tinyurl.com/yctgj9p9  

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