OCC School Exclusions Inquiry: Perspectives of teaching staff and other professionals

Richard White, Emily Lamont, Helen Aston

25 April 2013

The Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC) commissioned NFER to investigate teachers’ and non-teaching professionals’ views and experiences of inequalities in exclusion from school and illegal exclusion practises. We carried out focus groups with 28 professionals. The research has informed the OCC’s School Exclusions Inquiry.

This work was undertaken for the Office of the Children's Commissioner (OCC) as part of their Inquiry into School Exclusions.

Key Findings

  • Participants told us that certain groups of pupils were disproportionately excluded in their areas: boys, pupils receiving free school meals, pupils with Special Educational Needs, those from certain ethnic groups, looked-after children and previously excluded pupils.
  • Reasons for exclusions included: specific incidents (e.g. an assault), persistent disruptive behaviour and broader systemic reasons (e.g. failure to investigate causes of poor behaviour).
  • Schools’ approaches to exclusion ranged from a ‘non-exclusions’ approach to a ‘zero tolerance’ culture.
  • Schools were using strategies to prevent exclusions (such as seclusion and de-escalation) and provided alternatives to exclusion (such as managed moves or transfer of pupils to another school, often brokered and managed via a fair access protocol).
  • Some participants saw an exclusion as a positive outcome for the individual and/or their classmates and/or the school. Others felt a sense of failure and guilt. In most cases, teachers felt that exclusion rarely benefited the excluded pupil concerned or, in isolation, effected positive change in their behaviour.
  • Most teachers said that unofficial and illegal exclusions had occurred in their school at some point.
  • Awareness of the equality and exclusions legislation varied, while awareness of the newly introduced changes to the exclusion appeal system was low.
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