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.
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.