Exclusions: Ofsted will look more closely at 'repeat' patterns of suspension

Ofsted will look more closely at whether schools are “repeatedly” suspending or isolating the same pupils, under its new inspection framework.

A school found to be using suspensions or fixed-term exclusions “inappropriately” would only then be able to achieve a “requires improvement” grade at most.

But some teachers say schools need to be able to use internal exclusion such as isolation rooms or suspensions without being “afraid of being clobbered by inspectors”.

If a school thinks a pupil needs a certain sanction, they need to be able to do that without thinking, ‘that child is pupil premium’

A review of exclusions led by Ed Timpson, a former children’s minister, was due to be published last year. It examined why certain groups of pupils were more likely to be excluded.

Ofsted’s proposals say that inspectors will examine schools’ use of fixed-term or internal exclusions.

They will then check whether there are any “differences between groups of pupils” who are excluded, before considering “how well the school is recognising and acting to address any patterns that exist”.

The effectiveness of suspensions and internal exclusions will also be checked.

Stuart Lock, the executive principal of the Advantage Schools Academy Trust, said he supported the overall framework, but added the proposal was “problematic because inspectors won’t have the time to get into the reasons” for isolations and suspensions.

Governors and independent review panels already review exclusions “with all the evidence in front of them”, he said.

Ofsted said it would recognise schools that made “tenacious” attempts to access local services to help pupils, and those that developed “alternative strategies” to exclusions.

Adam Boxer, a science teacher at the Jewish Community Secondary School in north London, said all pupils must be supported properly, but if teachers had “tried everything” they “shouldn’t be afraid they might get clobbered by inspectors” if they isolated or suspended pupils.

“If a school thinks a pupil needs a certain sanction, they need to be able to do that without thinking, ‘that child is pupil premium’.”

The proposals around fixed-term exclusions are part of the new “behaviour and attitudes” category, which belonged with “personal development” in the old framework. Now both stand as categories in their own right.

Ofsted has been accused of sending out mixed messages over exclusions. Schools Week also reported on Monday that the Magna Academy, in Poole, was rated as “outstanding” with inspectors praising its “relatively high” number of exclusions.