Help us ‘minimise’ exclusions, councils tell regional directors

The Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) wants academy regulators to 'play greater role' in cutting exclusions

The Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) wants academy regulators to 'play greater role' in cutting exclusions

The government’s regional directors should “adopt a priority focus on tackling and minimising exclusions”, council education bosses have said.

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) has today published a policy paper setting out what they want from the education system. 

They said the reforms in recent years have resulted in an “increasingly fragmented education system”, with councils’ role in education “partly eroded” while still having to meet statutory duties. 

A “reshaped” system with strong links to the local area would help incentivise inclusive behaviours leading to a reduction in exclusions and greater access to school places for poorer children, ADCS said. 

The association calls for the Department for Education’s nine regions groups to “play a greater role” in this.

They should “adopt a priority focus on tackling and minimising exclusions, in partnership with LAs, who hold responsibility for children excluded from school, to find local resolutions.

“This should take a holistic view of the education system, including the role of the inspectorate, to ensure all are working towards improving children’s outcomes.”

School exclusion rates appear to have risen back to pre-pandemic levels, with the number of suspensions soaring again from last year’s record-breaking numbers.

A recent Schools Week investigation revealed a third of areas last year had pupils stuck on waiting lists for specialist provision, with exclusions seemingly rising faster than councils could keep up with.

Leora Cruddas, chief executive at the Confederation of School Trusts, said “it is not really clear what the ADCS is advocating here.

“The responsibility for exclusion in all schools rests with the head teacher, as the people best placed to safeguard the welfare of all pupils and staff. Ofsted do already monitor exclusions and can take action if they believe it is being used inappropriately.”

ADCS also calls for “inclusion profiles” in any future school inspection frameworks “to ensure schools are held to account for how accurately they reflect their local child population and therefore meet the needs of their local community”.

The association warns government “has not put in place strong, formal processes” to hold academy trusts to account.

They claim regional directors do not have “the same level of local knowledge” as councils.

They would like a “stronger role” for “councils to improve transparency and address practical arrangements to tackle academic, financial and inclusion-related concerns in individual schools, regardless of status or designation”.

Other recommendations include introducing a “collaborative standard” for academy trusts. This would require them to “work constructively with each other, LAs and the wider public and third sectors in the best interests of all children”. 

They also called for policies outlined in the since-scrapped white paper for LA-run academy trusts and greater admission powers for councils to be enacted.

Cruddas added several of the ADCS’s proposals “would see local authorities regulating themselves in relation to maintained schools, as well as regulating school trusts as the responsible body for academies while simultaneously being a responsible body themselves.

“Both scenarios would be problematic in principle and in practice. CST believes local authorities have a fundamentally important part to play in local education systems as convenor in place, protector of pupils, and supporter of schools, but it is important that there is clarity and separation between delivery, inspection, and regulation.”

A DfE spokesperson said permanent exclusions should only be used “as a last resort and should not mean exclusion for education.

“Our updated statutory guidance makes clear that early intervention should be put in place where pupils are at risk of being permanently excluded and are entering alternative provision.”

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