Does exclusion work?

‘It emerged that 250 infants aged just seven or under were excluded from school – more than one for each day of the academic year.’

I have been amazed at the statistics revealed by the above article on the excellent @schoolsimprove. I find it extremely sad that we have reached this point. I began to search for any research pertaining to either the positive or detrimental use of exclusions.

‘It makes me reflect on the whole notion of expulsion in schools. Undoubtedly, some extreme events occur that, for reasons of safety, necessitate this consequence. However, many expulsions arise from a lack of adult intervention. Too little to late.’

As the blog on tolerance also states, it is true that expulsion and exclusion should always be a last resort but one that is required.

The definition below comes from

Types of exclusion There are 2 kinds of exclusion – fixed period (suspended) and permanent (expelled).

Fixed period exclusion

A fixed period exclusion is where your child is temporarily removed from school. They can only be removed for up to 45 school days in 1 school year. If a child has been excluded for a fixed period, schools should set and mark work for the first 5 school days. If the exclusion is longer than 5 school days, the school must arrange full-time education from the 6th school day.

Permanent exclusion

Permanent exclusion means your child is expelled. The local council must arrange full-time education from the 6th school day.

Does expulsion work?

Whilst searching on the web I discovered this article,

Do Expulsion and Suspension Work in Public Schools?

The full article is available on

‘In addition, the students that are subject to this sort of discipline tend to fall into very specific demographics in terms of race, gender and even disability. These students are less likely to graduate from high school and more apt to get into trouble with the law. However, some argue that if the disciplinary measures are sufficient in improving performance throughout the rest of the student population, the collateral damage in losing some of the students who pose a discipline problem may be worthwhile.

Unfortunately, that does not appear to be the case either. The states that have the highest suspension rates also tend to have the lowest scores on aptitude tests in reading, math and writing. These discrepancies appear to be consistent even among schools that have similar demographics otherwise. It does not appear that suspension of students has an academic benefit for any of the students in that school.
The Alternative
Fortunately, there are alternatives to suspension and expulsion as a means of disciplining students today. The National Association of School Psychologists reports that replacing these traditional methods with positive disciplinary measures tend to create a safer, more productive student environment. The organization cites statistics that show schools that implement discipline policies that focus on producing positive behavior reduces student alienation and promotes healthy relationships between students and adults at the school. ‘
The article uses a number of resources relating to schools in the USA.
Finland is often quoted as being one of the best if not the best education system in the world today yet when you read their literature from a number of resources one of the biggest fears relates to social exclusion. As the article from the USA demonstrated, exclusion from School often translates into exclusion from society in later life. However in a quote from the Finnish President in 2012, it is refreshing to read an acceptance  from a politician that this is not the sole responsibility of the school,

“Parents, think back to your own youth”

In the speech he gave at Jakomäki School, the President stressed that the wellbeing of young people cannot be pursued by official action and committee reports alone. The entire community around a young person growing up has a huge impact: home, family, neighbours, friends, daycare, school and hobbies. “All these are communities that help shape what a young person becomes. We all have a responsibility in this,” Niinistö pointed out. “And if there are people who are still not convinced that they have a role to play in this, I would encourage parents to think back to their own youth. I myself can remember many occasions on which an adult, a complete stranger, asked me something like ‘Why did you do that’? And I still remember those times because there was good reason for intervention.”

Written below is a post that I wrote earlier in the year. The central plea is very apt in light of the new facts on exclusion.
“What is bad behaviour?

After reading the above article, it made me consider how preconceptions can have an impact in the classroom. One of the most obvious and damaging preconceived ideas is that of labeling a child as being naughty. I believe that pupils are not naturally naughty or badly behaved but that circumstances lead to a child having a very low self esteem and extremely frustrated with themselves that often explodes and manifests itself in many different ways. If you continually tell a child stop being naughty or behave properly then they will eventually believe what they are told. The greatest mystery for any teacher is to understand why a child is behaving in such a manner. This is the most important question but often it is the one that is asked after a child has been told the consequence of their actions. In my opinion it should be the first thought in the minds of the teachers. Only by understanding this can we resolve the needs of the individual. Often bad behaviour is linked to low self esteem but why do pupils have such a low opinion of themselves? It often begins at home, a cry of help, a need for attention and if we consider how toddlers grow up we know that any attention is perceived as being acceptable. This brings me back to the article in the Daily Mail, boys behaviour leading to lower grades due partly to low level engagement in the classroom. Boys often find it difficult to express their feelings and unfortunately actions can often speak louder than words and that leads to a cycle of events that can often lead out of control over a period of time. The purpose of my post is to make a plea, whenever you are faced with bad behaviour consider why and when setting consequences consider the aim i.e are you simply punishing an action or is your ultimate aim to improve engagement of the pupil with their education? Perhaps this is my most controversial post and I accept that bad behaviour exists but as a Headteacher I have learnt the importance of discovering why! Self esteem is important to every single pupil and if well being is at the heart of education then we need to realise the importance of praise and understanding for every child.”

To return to the subject of exclusion, is it more important to work harder in the early stages of a pupils life to prevent exclusion? The teacher training in Finland places a strong emphasis on learning the importance of inclusion,

“Teachers learn how to create challenging curriculum and how to develop and evaluate local performance assessments that engage students in research and inquiry on a regular basis. Teacher training emphasizes learning how to teach students who learn in different ways, including those with special needs. It includes a strong emphasis on “multiculturality” and the “prevention of learning difficulties and exclusion,” as well as on the understanding of learning, thoughtful assessment, and curriculum development. The egalitarian Finns reasoned that if teachers learn to help students who struggle, they will be able to teach all students more effectively and, indeed, leave no child behind.”

The above quote comes from an interesting article that considers how Finland has managed to transform its Education system

As a Headteacher, I realise that certain circumstances will lead to exclusion and possible expulsion however I also know that to send a child home can often lead to further problems as the pupil has learnt that by being naughty will lead to time away from school. The effectiveness of any exclusion policy can only be measured by the extent of the parental support. Perhaps therefore a further plea is required. If parents when called into School to discuss  the behaviour of their child create an effective working partnership with the School then probably exclusion would not be required. Ultimately, to encourage social inclusion is essential for the future of society. To include rather than exclude should be the aim of all behaviour policies. In Finland they have focussed on self assessment by the pupils in terms of their behaviour as one of the key factors in promoting social inclusion, to place the responsibility with the individual and not simply the School.

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