Zero-tolerance risks exclusions for minor incidents
It’s reasonable for schools to have ‘zero-tolerance’ policies towards ‘drugs or weapons’, cross-party MPs on the Education Select Committee said. But schools which reprimand pupils for slight breaches of rules about hair styles or uniform risk creating ‘an environment where pupils are punished needlessly where there should be flexibility and a degree of discretion.’ These minor incidents ‘could and should be managed within the mainstream school environment’.
Some pupils more likely to be excluded than others
Some groups of children are more likely to be excluded than others, MPs found:
In addition, boys are more likely to be permanently excluded than girls and some ethnicities are ‘disproportionately represented in alternative provision’. These include Black Caribbean, Irish traveller heritage and Gypsy Roma heritage pupils.
Accountability measures incentivise exclusion and ‘off-rolling’
MPs were concerned about ‘off-rolling’ described as ‘a way of schools to wash their hands of pupils who will bring down their Progress 8 score.’
Schools minister Nick Gibb was adamant: off-rolling was ‘unlawful’. There’s only one reason for excluding pupils permanently and that is ‘behavioural issues’. Ofsted will be ‘vigilant’ in spotting where off-rolling occurs, he said.
DfE can’t ‘wash its hands’
But MPs were clear: Ofsted shouldn’t be given ‘sole responsibility’ for sniffing-out the practice. ‘Off-rolling is in part driven by school policies created by the Department for Education. The Department cannot wash its hands of the issue, just as schools cannot wash their hands of their pupils.’
Narrowing of curriculum
MPs were also concerned about a narrowing of the curriculum. This was ‘an unfortunate and unintended consequence of the Government’s strong focus on school standards’ and led to ‘a curriculum with a lack of focus on developing pupils’ social and economic capital’.
Lack of moral accountability in many schools
Progress 8 had incentivised exclusion, MPs concluded. ‘There appears to be a lack of moral accountability on the part of many schools and no incentive to, or deterrent to not, retain pupils who could be classed as difficult or challenging.’
In other words, there isn’t enough emphasis on schools’ moral responsibility to all pupils n their care not just the compliant and/or those most likely to do well in exams.
NOTE 30 July 2018: The first sub heading was shortened to make it more succinct.