DfE to review 'disproportionate' exclusions of certain ethnicities

The Department for Education is to launch an external review into the links between pupil ethnicity and exclusions, focusing on “disproportionate” exclusion rates among some ethnic groups.

It’s part of an audit by the office of prime minister Theresa May of how people from different ethnic backgrounds are treated across all public services.

According to a press release from Downing Street, the DfE will “take forward an external review to improve practice in exclusions”, which will “focus on the experiences of those groups who are disproportionately likely to be excluded” and share best practice.

School exclusions data shows that pupils from black Caribbean backgrounds are three times more likely to be excluded than white pupils, at a rate of 0.29 per cent compared to a rate of 0.1 per cent.

Pupils from Irish traveller or Roma/gypsy backgrounds have the highest rate of exclusions of any ethnic group, at 0.49 per cent and 0.33 per cent respectively.

Boys in both groups are particularly likely to be excluded, and are being told to leave schools at the highest rates ever, according to previous Schools Week analysis.

In 2012-13, Irish traveller boys were excluded at a rate of 0.5 per cent of their total, and this rose to 0.75 in 2015-16. Roma and Gypsy boys have also been excluded more, from a rate of 0.34 per cent three years ago to 0.54 per cent last year.

Analysis by The Difference, a teacher training programme for the alternative provision sector, has meanwhile found that in inner cities, where populations tend to be most diverse, local pupil referral units have disproportionately high numbers of pupils from ethnic minority backgrounds.

“In our cities where we believe we have the best schools, and the most diverse populations, actually what you see within the PRUs are many pupils from those diverse backgrounds,” said Kiran Gill, the group’s founder.

Dave Whitaker, the executive principal of Springwell Learning Community, an alternative provision and special needs school in Barnsley, said the issue of pupils from certain ethnicities being excluded was “geographical”, and pointed out that most pupils he deals with are from poor, white, working class backgrounds.

The review is “very timely”, he added, as “something needs to be done about exclusions, and alternative provision, full-stop”.

The government’s education attainment data shows “there are disparities in primary school which increase in secondary school”, says the No 10 press release.

It notes that Chinese and Asian pupils tend to perform well and white and black pupils do “less well, particularly those eligible for free school meals”.

A new website called Ethnicity Facts and Figures will have thousands of statistics covering more than 130 topics in areas including health, education, employment and the criminal justice system, said the release.

A spokesperson for the DfE told Schools Week that more information on the review will be launched in due course.