The Timpson review is an attempt to address a small but significant issue; the pretence of school improvement through cohort change with a consequential negative impact on children and young people’s life chances.  Recommendation 14 reads, “DfE should make schools responsible for the children they exclude and accountable for their educational outcomes . . .”

This covers two critical areas that may well be affecting the rise in permanent exclusions; funding and accountability. It fails to address the impact of austerity on the disappearing and disappeared local provision available to schools and the vulnerable young people themselves.

In the same way that we cannot sum up a school’s performance using a single word; nor can we devise a single statistical measure that will adequately allow us to determine a school’s effectiveness. There will be plenty of naysayers, when and if the consultation proposed by Timpson comes to pass, about the inadequacy of any proposed changes to measures such as Progress 8. But  a slightly less imperfect measure is preferable to the status quo.

Here are some thoughts to start the debate.

Schools should be responsible for all the children they educate for as long as they educate them

We must move beyond Timpson’s recommendation that schools should be “responsible for the children they exclude”. Schools should be responsible for all the children they educate for as long as they educate them. This is essentially another call for proportionate accountability. At its simplest, a secondary school would be proportionately accountable for each year a child attends the school; 20 per cent accountability a year.

However, a very small number of schools may just look to move pupils on sooner rather than later. One suggestion would be to reweight proportionate accountability so that a school would be held responsible for 40 per cent of the GCSE outcome of pupils on its roll in the year 7 October census, increasing by 20 per cent each year. It would be held 100 per cent accountable for a pupil’s final GCSE outcomes if he or she had been on roll from year 7 all the way through to the October census in year 10.

No problem for most pupils. But how do we deal with accountability for pupils who are permanently excluded, move to elective home education (forced or otherwise) or who are part of a “managed move” (agreed or foisted on the host school)? In 2016, Headteachers Roundtable proposed the following in its Alternative Green Paper:

  1. For a pupil who leaves a school except at the normal leaving age, the time a pupil is at a school plus one year (up to the maximum length of time for that particular phase of schooling) if transferring to another mainstream school.
  2. Any time spent in alternative provision or elective home education would be included in the proportion allocated to the school the pupil left.
  3. For a school who takes in a pupil outside of the normal point of entry the weighting would be the time spent at the school minus one year (with the minimum time being zero).

This increases the likelihood that schools will love the ones they’ve got and use permanent exclusion as a final resort, as was always intended.

There is a need to align the funding and proportionate accountability metrics; the annual October census should be used for both purposes. The use of the year 11 January census as the sole point of registration helps to explain why there is a peak in pupils coming off schools’ rolls in year 10 and the first term of year 11; its use is historic and no longer appropriate.

The October census should become a universal children’s census with a set key of key identifiers used to cross-match against GP records. Long term this could significantly improve our safeguarding of the most vulnerable children and young people.

These changes or something similar don’t lead to a utopian measure, just a slightly less imperfect one in a fundamentally flawed and increasingly dysfunctional accountability system.