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The Silent Offloading Of Troubled Students

The (cheap) price to pay for a better school performance ranking.

A recent paper from the Educational Policy Institute (EPI) has issued that Multi-academy trusts (MATs) should not only be measured on what we deem to be important for a school such as school grades, attendance, and quality of education, but also whether those schools exclude students or not. This is because it’s been found that many MATs and schools are off-loading troubled students at a rate that is notable, and doing it just before GCSE season is dubious and should be investigated. For a long time, schools were not being challenged on the off-loading of students, which is now at the forefront and it is being suggested by the EPI, that schools should also be assessed on their rate of exclusions. 

Trusts and schools have been allowed to exclude and off-load students that were deemed to be more hassle than they’re worth, without impunity. These excluded students are usually not doing the best in regards to their studies, and as a result, their exclusions inflate the positive exam results improving that school’s performance statistics. This reasoning alone is enough for schools to go out of their way to pluck students out of classrooms. This is obviously wrong for many different reasons. The EPI paper also suggests that many high-performing schools are actively not enrolling those from impoverished backgrounds to avoid this situation altogether and keep their hands clean of the whole issue.

Excluding troubled kids doesn’t actually benefit anybody other than the MATs or school releasing them. A report in 2018 has reported that more and more kids from primary schools and secondary schools are being enrolled in pupil referral units (PRU). These establishments are rated fairly positively by OFSTED but the fact of the matter is that these schools are over-represented by children with special educational needs, students from poorer backgrounds and minorities. These PRUs are also rampant with teacher vacancies, meaning many students do not have a great education and in turn, have no valuable role models to look to. They’re being cut out of the mainstream education pipeline and all this does is further disenfranchise them and outcast them. Kids should be given every chance to engage in a legitimate institute with teachers and staff that can help and support them. Schools love to paint themselves as patrons of diversity and inclusion but are very quick to release those they deem to be even slightly difficult.

A troubling correlation in regards to school exclusions is that the rate of knife crime ends up increasing. This is not direct causation, but it should be noted that there is a link. To back up this evidence, a study was taken in Glasgow where exclusions fell 81%, they found out that the rate of violent crime had reduced by 48%. The fact that these kids were still in the school system is obviously a great way to keep them off the streets and away from things that may push them further down that dark pathway i.e drugs, alcohol. Fighting for inclusion is something that should be pushed harder on schools to actively participate in, not only does it help support students having trouble, but it has tangible effects on the area surrounding the schools, benefiting more people than imaginable.

The EPI’s suggestion has coupled itself nicely with the news that Lewis Hamilton’s ‘Mission 44’ charity is partnering with Sky to help tackle the growing problem of exclusions of black students within our schools with a sizeable donation to the charity. The funds will go towards helping to support MATs and schools support those children seen to have a high potential for exclusion. Sky will be supporting the cause by offering a career insight programme to help those find a path into work and help support them in a way that is meaningful. This is a great start and should be something invested in by the government itself. 

MATs and schools need to do much more in providing an inclusive environment, if there is any silver lining to this, it’s that the issue is no longer easy to ignore. This issue won’t go away until the pressure for schools to perform well statistically is deemed second to providing an inclusive and promising school environment for kids that need support. This can only be the case if schools find a different way to measure success.