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Exclusion doesn’t have to mean no access to learning

The number of children being excluded from school is rising and schools seem to lack the resources to address the issue of how these children are educated.

Just short of 390,000 children were excluded permanently or for a fixed period during the academic year 2016/17.  The reasons for exclusions include physical or verbal assault, bullying, racial abuse, sexual misconduct, drug and alcohol related activities, damage to property, theft and persistent disruptive behaviour.

The worrying figure is that government reports only identify 48,000 children being educated outside the mainstream system.  So, what happens to the other 340,000 kids?

The Commons Education Committee, a cross-party group of MPs, are actively exploring the issue of exclusion and how it’s being applied.  

The danger zone

It’s a sad fact, but the majority of children who are excluded are from families where the parents are not equipped to home-educate.  These children are vulnerable and often find they’re drawn into gangs, drugs, alcohol and other illegal activities.

If they’re excluded from school for even as little as a week, with time on their hands they can drift into the wrong company.  In addition, even if they spend the week at home playing computer games or surfing the internet, they can find things tough in the classroom as they may have missed critical learning.  

With a rebellious youngster, that can trigger further misbehaviour stemming from feeling inadequate or frustration at being unable to understand the current lessons.

Not all children who are excluded are ‘bad’.  Children with special needs are sometimes excluded because their behaviour needs a different approach.  The school system doesn’t always have the staff available to provide a more one-to-one approach for children who need a different kind of support.

Frustration can result in what is described as ‘disruptive behaviour’ and eventually the child is excluded.

Light at the end of the tunnel

There are a few opportunities for children who have been permanently excluded.  Establishments like The Limes College in Sutton (SW London) is a centre that provides education for excluded children.

The kids get treated differently and have one-to-one sessions and are encouraged to do their best.  The results have been excellent so far and the children appreciate that they are being given a second chance and develop a much more positive approach.

This isn’t the only option.  There are online options where children can be taught remotely, in much the same way that many Australian children who live in isolated locations are schooled.

This is often an excellent alternative for children with special needs as it offers one-to-one sessions with their tutors.  It’s especially good for children on the autistic spectrum who may find attending a mainstream school overwhelming.

The challenge for the education system is to identify the difference between kids who are simply causing trouble and those who need the right kind of support and attention to flourish.