Researchers given £2.6m grant to investigate impact of school exclusions

A research team led by the University of Oxford has been granted £2.55 million to analyse the consequences of school exclusions across the UK.

The research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, will aim to develop a “multi-disciplinary understanding of the political economies and consequences of school exclusion”. It will also look at the costs for individuals, institutions and the system at large as well as the rights and entitlements of pupils.

The four-year project, which begins today, will be led by the University of Oxford’s department of education, and also include researchers across Reading, the London School of Economics, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast.

Rising exclusion rates have been under the spotlight recently.

This project aims to highlight ways in which fairer and more productive outcomes can be achieved for pupils

In May, the long-awaited Timpson exclusions review published its findings, with recommendations including making schools responsible for the results of pupils they exclude, giving councils more power to review pupil movement and revising the 45-day suspension limit. The Department for Education agreed to the proposals “in principle”.

Harry Daniels, professor of education at Oxford and consultant principal investigator for the research, said exclusion “as a process” can only be understood “when examined from multiple professional and disciplinary perspectives”.

“Education policy has also largely ignored the work conducted by school and welfare professionals that attempts to address disruptive behaviour to prevent more serious incidents.

“This project therefore aims to highlight ways in which fairer and more productive outcomes can be achieved for pupils, their families and professionals by comparing the ways in which policy and practice around exclusions differ in the four jurisdictions.”

The research is organised into three strands. Landscapes of exclusion will examine the ways in which policies and legal framework shapes interventions designed to prevent exclusion, the financial costs and patterns and characteristics in exclusion. The experience of exclusion strand will focus on the experiences of families, pupils and professionals in both the risks and consequences of exclusion, while the integration strand will aim to develop a coherent multi-disciplinary understanding of the findings.

Themes will include children’s rights, youth crime, values and religion, geographical context, gender and ethnicity, social class, special needs and disability and mental health.

The research will incorporate the whole of UK, where there are vast differences in the rates of permanent exclusions. The University of Oxford department of education said exclusions in England have risen rapidly, but remain low or have fallen in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Preliminary work conducted by the research team, first established in 2014, showed the pressures on schools to perform well in examination league tables can lead to the exclusion of pupils whose predicted attainment would weaken overall school performance.

As a consequence, pupils who do not conform to the rules can be excluded to the social margins of schooling, researchers said.