How To Help Prevent Students Being Excluded

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Sian Edwards

Sian is an education consultant. Her experiences and responsibilities are broad, ranging from being a mainstream Dance teacher and AST to being Deputy Head in a large and successful PRU. She is passionate about education and in particular, the learning experience for all children. It...
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What can you do to keep students at risk of exclusion in school?

It is well documented that children with higher attendance in school and lessons learn better. But what about the ones who are at risk of exclusion?

The DfE published statistics which showed that in the school year 2015-2016 around 35 children a day were excluded from school. The patterns of behaviour and absence from lessons have a huge long-term effect on the life chances for children. In a review of policy, practice and research from 1997 to 2015, Dr Ted Cole says: “School exclusion, in its various forms, often has devastating effects on the lives of the young people involved and long-term costs for society. Schools clearly have a duty to reduce such exclusion to an absolute minimum”.

A negative impact

A child and adolescent psychiatrist at the University of Exeter’s Medical School has warned that excluded children can develop a range of mental disorders as well as behavioural disturbance. Professor Tamsin Ford says the impact of excluding a child from school on their education and progress is often long term.

Professor Ford’s research found that a new onset mental disorder may be a consequence of exclusion from school and that poor mental health can lead to exclusion from school.

Children who are at risk of exclusion are often the most challenging and stress inducing students of all. Their behaviour is often a symptom of something else and that something else is out of your control.

8 ways to help prevent exclusion

Here are 8 tips for what is in your control and that starts with YOU!

1. Be happy

Smile and welcome your students especially the ones that are most challenging, make them feel noticed and valued.

2. Be kind

Don’t humiliate or ridicule, well placed banter can be well received but this is a really difficult balance to strike.

3. Be there

Listen to their point of view, show understanding and make them feel like they belong.

4. Be fair

Consistency is something all students appreciate and none more so than this group of students.

5. Be positive

We all know positive encouragement goes a long way. Often at risk students enter into a negative downward spiral and putting in positivity can be a very powerful thing. Maybe think of something that you know they will be successful at and create opportunities for them to feel good about themselves. It could be their little bit of light in all the dark. Just think if ALL their teachers did this how it could change everything for them.

6. Be brave

One successful strategy is to make the most difficult students your favourite and start to treat them like that. Children like to feel like they belong and that their opinions matter, get the least likely students involved in things you could tap into potential that would otherwise go unnoticed.

7. Be planned

Structure is something that gives children a safety net, they like to know what’s coming next and what to expect. This is really important as surprises can unsettle a child especially ones with complex and difficult lives. This is really important for the role of the form tutor too where schools rely heavily on them giving out messages to students, allow time in your morning to make sure this happens.

8. Be practical

Hands on learning works best for most students. It allows variety and develops interest but more importantly it can bring learning to life and give context. Plan in activities to break up the learning; this gives time and space for children’s concentration, as well as giving the opportunity for teaching social skills. Small groups work best, its less exposure and kind enough to allow at risk students to flourish. They really don’t like being made to feel stupid or conversely being made to look like a boffin.

And finally…

Essentially these tips would benefit all students but sometimes we get hung up on the ‘difficult ones’ as they do present our biggest challenges. Classroom teachers can have the greatest effect on reducing exclusions as they are the ones that see the children every day. For parents, the situation can be heartbreaking as their experience of schools is far from positive. As one parent says on The School Exclusion Project website,

Sadly, most schools tend to ignore our children’s cries for help manifesting in their behaviour; and compound the disruption of our children’s education.

It’s about time we all do our bit to support these children and help turn their lives around.

As reported in the Guardian, Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman warns that some of Britain’s most vulnerable young people are being left “out of sight and out of mind” by a system that is quick to condemn them to a life without a proper education. The practise of “off-rolling” has to stop.


A framework for mental health research has been published by the Department of Health and provides a collective view of how mental health research should develop in the UK over the next decade.

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