Report authors: Jessica Lumley, Strategy & Insight Manager | Nishat Rahman, Analyst
Monday 12 July 2021
FINAL REPORT (PDF): Education Inclusion
“A child excluded from school becomes vulnerable to grooming and exposure to violent crime. Promoting inclusivity is one of my key manifesto pledges and this report is an important milestone in our efforts to achieve this, specifically around the root causes of serious violent crime. Intervention is key and the role that education plays in young people’s lives is absolutely critical and cannot be underestimated. We all have a responsibility to work together in ensuring their futures. I oversee the Violence Reduction Unit and I’m pleased to see it has already taken steps to build upon the recommendations of this report, such as appointing an education lead and establishing a group of education partners seeking new solutions.”
Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin
“The Violence Reduction Unit is in a unique position to be able to bring together key organisations, placing education inclusion on the agenda at a very strategic level. Having previously worked in policing and education locally, I will be using all my experience and knowledge to forge stronger relationships, which ensure we are all operating towards a mutual goal. This will include everything from co-ordinating discussions with schools to speaking directly with a family member or pupil when risks of exclusion emerge. I will also be liaising closely with colleagues and partners in response to the additional recommendations contained in the Crest report.”
Newly appointed Education Lead for the West Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit, Sarah Whitehead
Crest Advisory partnered with West Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) to examine patterns and trends of school exclusions in West Yorkshire and what factors contributed to them; we paid special attention to the period since the outbreak of Covid-19. The final report explores evidence about ‘what works’ to reduce unnecessary school exclusions, maintain an inclusive educational environment and pursue educational initiatives aimed at cutting serious violence and the exploitation of young people.
In the first phase, we mapped local stakeholders and data and developed a communications plan. Using published datasets and evidence, peer-reviewed literature and some preliminary interviews with key people, we produced an interim report.
During the second phase of the project we compared national findings to local insight from a cross-police force Youth Offending Team (YOT) cohort, derived from five local authorities; the work involved the use of education data for the academic year 2019/20. We reviewed evidence of various types of intervention and conducted a series of interviews. We then brought the analysis and insight together in our second and final report, which also includes a set of practical recommendations.
WATCH: report co-author Nishat Rahman explains the report and its findings in just over 60 seconds:
Patterns and trends in school exclusions
We received contemporary school exclusion data for West Yorkshire, which outlines the use of exclusions, suspensions and elective home education in the first year of the pandemic. We also collected qualitative insights from interviews with local practitioners and responses to survey questions completed by local school-aged children.
We found that nationally, the exclusion rate in West Yorkshire has increased over the last five years and that persistent disruptive behaviour continues to be the most frequently used reason for permanent and fixed-term exclusion. What seems to distinguish years with low rates of exclusion from years with high rates is the frequency with which pupils are excluded due to persistent disruptive behaviour.
Education inclusion and vulnerable learners
Schools are disproportionately likely to exclude children with social, emotional and mental health needs, special education needs (SEN), children eligible for free school meals (FSM), those from Black backgrounds and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) children.
In West Yorkshire, pupils eligible for FSM and those with SEN are disproportionately excluded, both permanently and for fixed-terms; they also go on to represent a disproportionately high proportion of children who are electively home educated.
Nationally, although most young people were happy to return to school for the autumn term of 2020/21, attendance between September and December was lower than pre-pandemic levels. In line with infection rates, attendance also fluctuated, rising in September, falling in November – as England went into Lockdown 2 – and rising again in December – as infections ebbed.
We found that, for three of the five local authorities in West Yorkshire, the permanent exclusion rate increased during Covid-19 despite the unprecedented lack of time spent in school by most students. And, while the other two areas saw decreases in permanently excluded children, the number of pupils excluded for persistent disruptive behaviour continued to grow. This suggests the pandemic may present behavioural challenges for students and schools in the near future.
Education inclusion and serious violence
Young people who commit offences, including violent crimes, have often been excluded from school. In West Yorkshire, young people on the joint YOT cohort who’d committed serious and/or violent offences were considerably less likely to be in mainstream education, training or employment (ETE) than the rest of the cohort. And, although most of the young offenders in the cohort were meant to be attending ETE full time, figures showed 25% failed to attend at all. These young people are already considerably more vulnerable to violence, with full-time participation in school, training or regular employment being powerful protective factors from the risks associated with offending and victimisation.
Ensure schools, local authorities and other key agencies work together as part of a strategic approach, in a way they are not currently obliged to
Collect more data about the key markers of education inclusion, so that tailored interventions can be developed
Set up a network of local groups involving schools and other services which plan for children moving out of mainstream education. This will foster a joint sense of responsibility and a culture of inclusion - and provide a powerful platform for the voice of pupils to be heard
Establish an education inclusion single point of contact (SPOC) to coordinate discussions with a school, family, pupil and local authority advocate when key risks of exclusion emerge. This could help repair broken relationships which drive up exclusions
Provide safeguarding partnerships with up-to-date information about all pupils who are out of school
Encourage local authorities to investigate the use of educational exclusion in 2019/20 to find out the impact of individual behavioural policies and post-Covid strategies of each education, training and employment provider
Make certain strategies for helping pupils ‘catch-up’ after Covid-19 explain clearly how they will not result in worsening inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic