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Response to today’s Timpson Review debate

As Westminster debates the implementation of the Timpson Review recommendations, Catch22 Education CEO Jane Reed responds.

16 September 2021

The Timpson Review of School Exclusions was commissioned to explore schools’ use of exclusion and the disparity in exclusion rates amongst certain groups of students. Thirty recommendations were made, aimed at ensuring exclusion in schools is only used as an appropriate measure when necessary.

Two years on, Westminster is today debating the implementation of the review’s recommendations –and why only 6 of the 30 recommendations have been implemented in full.

Despite the number of exclusions falling during the COVID-19 pandemic, Catch22 Education Chief Executive Officer, Jane Reed, says there is a risk these figures will rise again as in-person teaching is universally taking place. Reed, who leads Catch22’s 13 alternative provision and special schools, says:

We want to see all children given the best chance to progress and succeed in their education – which in most cases means conformity within our mainstream schools. Alternative and specialist provision is a model designed to meet the individual needs of young people when that’s not possible.

Every effort must be made to prevent school exclusions by further developing the capacity of the mainstream system to meet the different and diverse needs of children and young people at risk through personalised programmes, specialist teaching and therapeutic activities. These programmes can be schools-based or community-based – and we know that it’s the best route to prevent children and young people  falling onto a path of violence, exploitation and disengagement with the education system.

Early intervention is also vital. That means equipping both teachers and parents/carers with the knowledge and skills to understand disruptive behaviour is a form of communication and unmet needs and to spot signs of risky behaviour and exploitation early and taking appropriate action.

Unfortunately, since the Review’s publication, this preventative approach has not taken hold. There has been some definite progress; we know that all new teachers receive training in appropriate behaviour management practice for example. And efforts have also been made to tackle the issue of “off-rolling” – where pupils are removed from the school roll without being officially permanently excluded, typically for the best interests of the school.

But these changes are not addressing issues early enough. Every child who is excluded from school has their own reason for it. We want to see a redoubling of efforts to implement prevention and early support within mainstream schools. Without doubt, it is this approach that will impact the most children, long-term, and will bring about the most effective change to our education system.

Persistent disruptive behaviour continues to be the most common reason for permanent exclusions and suspensions, with both at 34%. Plans on how to improve outcomes for SEN children, are due to be outlined in the upcoming SEND review, are expected next month.

About the review

Published in 2017 by Edward Timpson CBE, the report draws together 12 months of investigation in schools and insight from teachers, parents, children, local authority leaders and other practitioners. The findings reinforced that exclusion rate is linked to other factors and pupil characteristics, namely ethnicity, Special Educational Needs (SEN), Children in Need Status and Free School Meal eligibility.

Specifically, SEN children without a statement of such or an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), are subject to the highest rate of permanent exclusion, accounting for 46.7% of the total, whilst rates for those with no SEN are the lowest. Children eligible for FSM are consistently excluded more commonly than those non eligible. Moreover, the report found that Black Caribbean children are around 1.7 times more likely to be permanently excluded compared to White British children, even after accounting for other factors such as economic disadvantage.

Timpson’s review found an association between permanent exclusion and poorer outcomes in later life. Though not causal, exclusion is found to be “a marker for being at higher risk of becoming a victim or perpetrator of crime.” It found that “13 – 23% of young offenders sentenced to less than 12 months in custody, in 2014, had been permanently excluded from school prior to their sentence date.”

In light of the findings, Timpson urged the DfE to issue a clearer set of statutory guidance to schools as to behaviour management and suitable use of exclusion. It suggested local authorities play a greater role in ensuring preventative measures are in place for those children at higher risk of exclusion. And it advocated for the use of effective exclusion to be recognised in Ofsted inspections.

Catch22 Education

Catch22 supports alternative and special education provision and runs independent schools and academies. These schools offer both full-time and part-time education for children and young people displaying a wide range of complex barriers to education, including those who are excluded or at risk of exclusion, and those with social, behavioural or special educational needs.