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An article on the Times Educational Supplement web site in June 2016 suggests that special needs pupils make up around seven out of ten of all permanent exclusions.

As a result of this finding two researchers have investigated what schools can do to reduce the impact of these exclusions.

Work by Claire Wolstenholme, a research fellow in the Centre for Education and Inclusion Research, Sheffield Institute of Education, Sheffield Hallam University and Nick Hodge, Professor of Inclusive Practice at The Autism Centre, Sheffield Hallam University, cites the 2013/14 government figures on exclusion as its starting point.

Their commentary suggests there is a natural tendency of schools to engage in such exclusions because ofcompeting government agendas” in this case “the mandate to include children and young people with SEND in mainstream; the ranking of schools according to pupil attainment; and the need to be seen to be strong on discipline and control.”

They also comment on stories that frequently circulated about “problem pupils” being hidden when Ofsted comes calling.

What they don’t mention, but which is clearly a major factor, is the research by Special Needs Week which can be found elsewhere on this site to the effect that the number of special needs that SENCOs are called up to deal with are rising all the time, and there are quite a number that special needs teachers feel they have neither the training nor the resources to handle.

The TES article continues, “With all the pressure of governmental scrutiny, it can feel easier to position the child and their family as the problem rather than addressing barriers to learning and wellbeing within the school itself.”

However research from the Centre of Education and Inclusion Research at Sheffield Hallam University reported in the TES suggests that “regular and positive communication with pupils and parents about how these pupils are experiencing school will help to improve understanding and make schools less likely to resort to permanent exclusion.”

This is one of those things that when spelled out is obvious: talking with pupils and parents can be a great help in resolving issues.  The issue of course is one of time.

As the article concludes, “The experience of exclusion can be devastating for children and young people, and may lead to lifelong disadvantage. It also carries heavy emotional and practical costs for families of children with SEND; an additional burden on those who might already be struggling to cope. These are impacts that teachers may never become aware of once the “problem” has been removed from the school.”