Exclusion…between a rock and a hardplace.

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I’ve been stewing on the issue of exclusion for a while now and I just feel the need just get down my thoughts. Firstly I want to say that actions that put people’s safety at risk should never be tolerated also that people sharing horrific stories need to be listened to. As a head my job is to keep people safe and to create a space where all children can learn. To exclude should be the hardest decision a headteacher ever has to make. (though after the recent snow I’m not so sure)

The thing that bothers me is the lack of understanding with regards to the bigger picture. I don’t know whether this is a regional thing but in my experience the idea that exclusion gets a child the support they need is just idealistic piffle.

I know what the legalities say about LA providing provision on the 6th day I don’t however think the reality matches the rose-tinted perspective that some have. Equally the doing it for the good of the child argument is at best naive in my opinion. It may be the case in larger cities (though that is not my experience of it) where there is a provision or a space but in  many less built up areas there is little or nothing. The child is either moved on before exclusion or the child ends up out of school. Locally I am aware of a significant number of pupils whose education equates to one session a day or one day a week the rest of the time they are feral, when you exclude you are putting that child back in the chaotic place where much of that behaviour has stemmed from…nowhere to go and nothing to do and their downward spiral continues.

As a head if you know exclusion means this then whether you like it or not exclusion becomes an ethical nightmare, a moral quagmire. When you know that by excluding you are essentially stripping that child of any chance or hope then you think long and hard about that as an option.

Systemic pressures whether we like it or not add to this. Exclusion can be a quick way to turn around a school! All done for the greater good.

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Another option is the idea of a managed-move.  I have experienced it from both sides. I have sat as a classroom teacher as a child appears in my class, moved from one mainstream school to the next. They arrive with little or no information. Passed from pillar to post. Set up to fail in another environment. Occasionally you get it right, you make it work more often than not that is not the case.

In some cases  the child’s parents are encouraged to find another school, encouraged to try a fresh start by the school they are in, not official like but subtle encouragement. “Maybe we’re not the right school for you.” “I feel that maybe you would fit in better”  this often goes alongside veiled threats of sanctions and exclusion. Some are encouraged to home-school. That doesn’t count as an exclusion does it.

Whether we like it or not the current patterns of exclusion will ultimately have significant consequences not just for the young people involved but also for the communities they live in in the future. When you have had to make that decision come back and tell me I got it wrong.

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11 thoughts on “Exclusion…between a rock and a hardplace.

    • As a head…actually I haven’t got the language wrong. Exclusion is an incredibly difficult decision for a head to make and rightfully so. This idea that by excluding it will make it all alright is lovely in thought but the reality doesn’t match that sadly. I also think some attitudes to exclusion have done huge damage and that is not those who are anti-exclusion. Exclusion used as a quick fix is damaging for all. Exclusion maybe vital as I said at the start. I have excluded but it’s never done lightly.

      What I described as piffle was the idea that exclusion will be a solution for all that gets trotted out sometimes. The reality is much more complex than this easy binary do or don’t.

      Just trying to add flesh to the bones of an often narrow debate.

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      • My main concern is that statements like: “Exclusion is an incredibly difficult decision for a head to make and rightfully so.” ratchet up the pressure on Heads. I believe that an exclusion, as you briefly say initially for Health & Safety reasons should be a sine qua non; an easy call as it signals to everyone (esp the parents) that the matter is being taken seriously. I would hope that then resources (parental & otherwise) are focused onto sorting the situation.

        My problem with your article & others at present is the balance of words being addressed to reduce the use of measures & sanctions available to Heads. To answer your punchline in the first post I do not need to have made a particular decision to be able to say whether something is right or wrong. For example capital punishment is clearly wrong as there is too much risk that the incorrect person is convicted & there is no way back. This is not the case with exclusion it should be a process that is not necessarily held up as a big deal (sportsmen have time-outs) & as I say above leads to redemption.

        I think what I am advocating is Tough Love.

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      • We’ll have to disagree. We have systems that are rigorously upheld. There are some easy calls. Most are not. For some exclusion has been seen as a quick way to improve a school. That is wrong too. Most of the decisions aren’t clear cut…the wider view is important…we are not making that decision in a bubble.

        Equally the impact of exclusion is can be exactly the opposite of what you say. Look at prison figures for excluded pupils and tell me that there is nothing at risk.Equally in a small town without adequate support and resources there maybe no way back.

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      • Finally, re: Prisons…. to quote the “Holy Grail” album: ‘All wood burns,’ states Sir Bedevere. ‘Therefore,’ he concludes, ‘all that burns is wood.’ This is, of course, pure BS. Universal affirmatives can only be partially converted: all of Alma Cogan is dead, but only some of the class of dead people are Alma Cogan” Clearly there is a “literacy/exclusion …(substitute as appropriate) ” issue in our prisons but the risk lies with the top and beyond of the service making mistakes: eg in Scotland centralising training to one FE college & losing the local talent and understanding and in England ….

        Best of British to you

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      • Don’t think I said all did I. For some pupils exclusion works. The realities however are that not all areas have adequate support for excluded pupils. You have to make that judgement based on your context, equally there has to be a line and that has to be consistently upheld.

        Having seen a school local to me go from bottom of local league table to the top and knowing that some of that was due to exclusion and moving people on. You have to also question others attitudes to exclusion. Exclusion is a complex issue…you evidently seem to think it’s clear cut. We’ll have to disagree thanks for the discussion.

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  1. Your thoughts on exclusion and the lack of proper provisions for the child afterwards, especially when that means the child is put back in the chaotic cycle for longer echo my own. I am glad that heads wrestle with these decisions, as much as safety in crucial getting right for the child is our job and not one we should pass on.

    In my previous career I saw the results of exclusion for the child when they grow up, lack of connection to society and nothing invested in making it better. Great, honest post.

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