Our Mission: Exclusions

Discover Our Game Changing Strategies to Significantly Reduce the Number of School Exclusions

Derby City Exclusions Pilot

  1. Reduce PEX [Derby City]

In 2019, the Timpson Review of School Exclusion was published, which examined the use of exclusion and examined why some groups of pupils are more likely than others to be excluded.33 The Review had several important findings, yet lacked a national implementation strategy. In response, a pilot scheme was launched by Derby City Council to significantly reduce the rates of exclusions. This pilot was led by Pauline Melvin OBE (Director of Learning, Inclusion & Skills at Derby City Council).

Under the In-Year Fair Access (IYFA) Agreement, schools are obliged to inform the local authority, the family, and the school’s governing body whenever the case for a permanent exclusion is put forward. This is accepted as a standard practice across local authority education protocol.  Where this IYFA pilot differs is, following the Governors’ approval of a permanent exclusion the IYFA team make a recommendation to a relevant Placement Panel. This panel consists of eight headteachers from other local schools, as well as representatives from the local authority and other education related services. The relevant Placement Panel will then consider the referral for exclusion to either uphold the decision to exclude, or to inform the school that the exclusion would not be appropriate for a specific reason.34

Following the implementation of this pilot, the rate of fixed-term and permanent school exclusions in Derby City dropped significantly across both primary and secondary schools. In 2018-19, there were 63 permanent exclusions from secondary schools in the city. After the IYFA scheme was introduced, the number of permanent exclusions decreased to 38 in 2019-20 and just 4 in 2020-21. This drastic drop may partly reflect the impact of virtual schooling during the national Covid-19 lockdowns as children spent several months away from the classroom, yet the effectiveness of the exclusions pilot in Derby City is still clear. The pilot demonstrates that the introduction of an independent monitoring panel can reduce the rate of permanent exclusions and ensure that exclusions are only upheld when absolutely necessary.

The Traveller Movement recommends a national expansion and implementation of the Derby City IYFA pilot scheme to reduce or even eliminate the use of permanent exclusions. As Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children experience a disproportionate rate of exclusion from school, the Traveller Movement believes that reducing exclusions across all educational settings will reduce these disproportionalities and thus divert Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children away from the school to prison pipeline.


2.5        Equality and diversity policies should be made statutory in all schools by the Department for Education, who should oversee their implementation. Equality objectives should be mandatory,   specifically concerning Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children in schools as well as other ethnic            minorities.

2.6        The use of On-Site Inclusion Units is recommended in schools as an alternative to exclusion to support the needs of vulnerable children. These units are located on the same site as the school to ensure that children can spend time with their peers and friends during breaktimes and lunchtimes. Children learn how to manage difficulties that lead to disruptive behaviour in small classes where examples of good behaviour are explained and encouraged. When appropriate, children return to their usual classes in the main school buildings. 

2.7        Local monitoring panels for proposed permanent exclusions should be introduced and implemented nationally.  This would mimic the Secondary Placement Panel in the Derby City pilot, whereby headteachers and experts in the local area examine the case for a permanent exclusion and decide whether it is both necessary and appropriate. In this way, the use of school exclusions will be vastly reduced, if not stopped altogether.

Regulate On-Site Inclusion Units

On-Site Inclusion Units are a form of alternative provision for children who are struggling with the demands of mainstream education. OSIU’s are established and run by community schools and are often located near to the main school but established far enough away from the noise and disruptions that come from having so many children in one place. These units are used to concentrate necessary resources in an environment with low pupil numbers. They offer a different structure and include classes on behaviour and activities which engage the pupils and allow them to reflect on their positive behaviour.

OSIU’s are different from Pupil Referral Units (PRU’s) because they operate on the site of the pupil’s usual school. Pupils usually already have bonds with support staff and have other established networks of friends, family and support. The location of these units is key, as it allows for significantly more effective reintegration in to mainstream, as the pupil can aim to split their timetable between the unit and mainstream classes once some improvement has been made. It also reduces the child’s separation anxiety of having to attend a new school, with a completely different format, with people they do not know, located in a different area. For pupils who are sent to PRU’s, even for a short time, they often feel as if they have been excluded and no longer accepted in their school community. This in turn makes reintegration a more difficult process.

The reason for a child’s successful engagement with mainstream education being disrupted can be for several reasons, for example:

  • A child who exhibits poor or distressed behaviour. This behaviour can be present for several reasons, some include:
  • A child who has been a victim of bullying or harassment, either at school or outside school
  • A child who has been exposed to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE)
  • A child whose home circumstances may have changed (e.g. parents are separating or divorcing)
  • A child who may have a new and therefore undiagnosed medical condition or special education need
  • A child with special educational needs whose conditions have deteriorated, requiring further intervention in a more stable setting. This is only used if the child’s special educational needs do not meet the threshold of a special school placement, or when parents request to keep their child in mainstream education.

It is important OSIU’s follow principles of good practice. Currently these are not available via the Department for Education and often rely on expert staff establishing their own practices. However, if used effectively, OSIU’s can assist schools with meeting the following aims:

  • Reduce rates of fixed-term and permanent exclusions
  • Improve attendance rates and persistent absenteeism rates
  • Improve attainment rates across key stages
  • Support vulnerable or distressed pupils
  • Improve staff and pupil attitudes towards the learning environment
  • Support learning and emotional wellbeing consecutively
  • Assist in the delivery of the school’s behaviour policy
  • Contribute to the whole-school improvement plan
  • Support integration and reintegration of pupils into school

Schools and academy trusts over a certain size should be required to have an OSIU. The number of places available should be related to their published admission number (PAN), for example having one place for every one-hundred pupils. Smaller schools within a local area with low PAN’s should nominate a school to establish an OSIU, with the other schools contributing to the associated costs.

The government should publish guidance on how schools can establish an OSIU and which good practices should be adopted.

The government should monitor success rates or OSIU’s, by reporting on the number of pupils placed and the number of pupil’s who return to mainstream education. Race, gender and disadvantaged status of each pupil should also be monitored and reported. Current reporting for PRU admissions and exclusions should be adapted to include children who have previously attended an OSIU.

OSIU should be assessed by OFSTED as part of any periodic school inspection. OFSTED should use requirements and established good practice criteria, as well as individual school data, to measure the success of a unit.

Since academisation, more schools hold more reserve cash and operate a surplus annually than in previous years. OSIU provision should be considered part of the ordinary operational costs of any school. OSIU’s offer an essential provision to pupils who are most likely to have poor educational outcomes, and who often are categorised as disadvantaged, or come from a protected group under equality legislation. It is therefore important that schools prioritise existing funds to ensure an OSIU is established as part of their provision. However, the government should make available specific funding available to schools who have operated a deficit for at least two-years and who hold no reserves available to fund this project, to ensure OSIU are established, regardless of the financial status of the school.

See the Traveller Movement’s On-Site Inclusion Unit: A Good Practice Guide due Autumn 2022.  

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