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With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about the publication of the Timpson review on school exclusions. Last March, the Government commissioned Edward Timpson to explore how headteachers use exclusion and why some groups of pupils are more likely to be excluded than others. The review and the Government’s response are published today and I have placed copies in the House Libraries. The Timpson review is thorough and extensive, and I want to thank Edward and all those he worked with during the review, including schools, local authorities, parents, carers and children.
Exclusion rates have risen over recent years, but they are lower than they were a decade ago, and permanent exclusion—expulsion—remains a rare event: 85% of all mainstream schools did not expel any children in the academic year 2016-17. Edward Timpson’s review found excellent practice across the school system but also variation across different schools, local authorities and groups of children. The Government agree with Edward Timpson’s conclusion that there is no “right” level of exclusion that we should aim for, but we need to examine why there are differences in exclusion rates for pupils with different characteristics and in different places.
I want teachers to be free to teach and pupils to be free to learn in a safe and ordered environment, so I absolutely support headteachers when they conclude that they need to suspend a pupil in response to poor behaviour or to expel them as a last resort. But it is vital that we support schools to give pupils at risk of exclusion the best chance to succeed, and ensure that, for those children who are permanently excluded, this is also the start of something new and positive.
I am clear that, where exclusion is the right decision to take and someone is excluded from a school, they must be excluded from a school and not from education itself. That especially matters because excluded children include some of society’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged, with a third classed as children in need—that is, children known to social services.
Overall, when children from ethnic minorities are compared with white British children, there is no substantial difference in exclusion rates. The review found that children from some groups, such as black Caribbean children, are more likely to be excluded than white British children, while children from some other groups, such as Indian children, are less likely to be excluded.
The Government’s response to Timpson is based on four key commitments. First, we will always support headteachers to maintain a safe and orderly environment for pupils and staff. We will support schools to give pupils at risk of exclusion the best chance to succeed. We will make when and how it is appropriate for headteachers to remove children from their school much clearer and at the same time we will ensure sufficient oversight when they are. Finally, we will do more to support schools and alternative providers so that excluded pupils continue to receive a high-quality education.
To deliver that, the Government are today committing to the following actions. First, we will make schools accountable for the outcomes of permanently excluded children. We know that is complex and needs to be done in a way that is fair to schools and pupils, so we will work with education leaders over the summer to design a consultation to be launched in the autumn on how to deliver that in practice. As part of that consultation, we will also look at the implications of any changes to how alternative provision is commissioned and funded and at how we can mitigate the potential unintended consequences that Edward Timpson identified, including how to tackle the practice of so-called off-rolling. We will establish a practice programme to drive better partnership working between local authorities, schools, alternative provision and other partners, building on the excellent practice that Edward identified in his review. We will work with sector experts, led by the Department’s lead adviser on behaviour, Tom Bennett, to rewrite our guidance, including on exclusions, behaviour and discipline in schools, by summer next year.
We call on local authorities, governing bodies, academy trusts and local forums of schools to establish a shared understanding of the characteristics of children who leave schools by exclusion or otherwise. Our expectation is that that information will be used to inform improvements in practice and reduce disparities in the likelihood of exclusion between different groups of pupils.
We will work with Ofsted to define—that will give greater clarity for school leaders—and tackle the practice of off-rolling, where children are removed from school rolls without following formal exclusion procedures. That is often in ways that are in the interests of the school rather than the pupil. We believe the practice is relatively rare, but we are clear that, where it happens, it is unacceptable.
Finally, we will set out our plans for alternative provision this autumn, including more on how we will support alternative providers to attract and develop high-quality staff through a new alternative provision workforce programme and on how we will help commissioners and providers to identify and recognise good practice.
Before concluding, I want to address the issue of violent crime, in particular knife crime, which has tragically taken the lives of far too many of our young people. The issues surrounding serious violence, antisocial behaviour and absence and exclusion from school are complex, which is why we are working with the education and care sectors, the Home Office and other Departments as part of a comprehensive, multi-agency response. While exclusion is a marker for increased risk of being a victim or perpetrator of crime, we must be careful not to draw a simple causal link between exclusions and knife crime. There is no clear evidence to support that. I am clear, though, that engagement with and success in education are a protective factor for children. The measures outlined in our response to Timpson will play a key role in ensuring that every young person is safe and free to fulfil their potential away from violent crime.
I thank all colleagues on all sides of the House who have taken a close interest in this area. I mention in particular my right hon. Friend Robert Halfon and the other members of his Select Committee. I thank them for their work on this important issue, in particular their inquiry into alternative provision, which has helped to shape Government thinking. Most of all, I thank Edward Timpson and all those he worked with during the review. In taking forward our response, we, like him, will take a consultative and collaborative approach to learn from those who carry out such valuable and often challenging work in teaching, supporting and caring for excluded children and those at risk of exclusion. I commend this statement to the House.
No headteacher or school leader wants to exclude pupils, and this should be a power used as a last resort. As the report highlights, it is often the most vulnerable children who are excluded, and we must ensure that the right support is there. For some time I have urged the Secretary of State to match Labour’s proposals and ensure that there is proper responsibility for pupils who leave school rolls, and I am glad he has said he will accept that, along with all the review’s other recommendations.
I know there will be further consultation, but does the Secretary of State have a proposed approach to how and, critically, when schools will be accountable for the outcomes of excluded pupils? It took well over a year and several delays before today’s publication. Further consultation, however necessary it may be, cannot become an excuse for more foot dragging, so when will the consultation conclude and implementation begin?
I am also concerned that the report is limited only to permanently excluded children. Is there accountability for pupils who leave school rolls outside formal permanent exclusion? If not, surely there is a risk not only that this measure will fail to tackle off-rolling, but that it will make the perverse incentives that lead to it even worse, not better. I welcome the Secretary of State’s statement that the practice is unacceptable, unlawful and will be subject to a promised crackdown, but can he tell us how that will be achieved? What sanctions will be available to deter or prevent off-rolling?
The Secretary of State refers to Ofsted, but multi-academy trusts are not inspected, many schools go a decade with no inspection and Ofsted has suffered a 52% real-terms cut to its budget. Can it really tackle off-rolling under those constraints? His commitment to extending support for alternative provision is welcome, but will any additional funding be provided? What concrete measures will we see? The latest wave of free schools included just two that specialise in alternative provision, so how can he address the lack of services in some areas without allowing other schools to be built? Nor did he mention unregistered and unregulated alternative providers. Does he plan to take any further steps to enforce standards?
Let me ask the Secretary of State the obvious question that this review poses but fails to answer. Schools and all the other services that support the most vulnerable children are facing the worst cuts in a generation. The Secretary of State and the review dance around the impact of those cuts, but it is no good holding schools to account for obligations they do not have the resources to meet. Does he not accept that pupils are at greater risk of exclusion when support staff have been lost as a result of funding cuts? How can we implement early intervention when the very services that provide it are being stripped away? What guarantee can he give that the next spending review will give those schools and services the funding they need and deserve?
The aims of this review are shared on both sides of the House, as the Secretary of State mentions. I welcome the steps that have been taken, including the adoption of some of Labour’s proposals, but this cannot fall on schools alone. He mentions that a third of excluded pupils are known to children’s social services, so how can we consider this issue without considering the massive cuts? He talks about knife crime, yet safer schools officers and youth workers are being withdrawn as funding for them is squeezed, too.
Too often, our schools have been left to pick up the pieces as services—from mental health provision to social care, from the police to youth services—have been dramatically scaled back, while austerity has hit hardest those least able to cope. This report found that excluded children were more likely to be those already disadvantaged by class, income, and special educational needs and disability, with certain ethnic minority groups at even higher risk. As the Government’s own Social Mobility Commission found last week, in the past few years half a million more children have been growing up in poverty, social mobility has been “stagnant” and inequality has been “deeply entrenched”. The Prime Minister promised that austerity was over. A generation of children cannot afford to keep waiting for that promise to be met.
I thank the hon. Lady for her questions. I agree with her, of course, that we need the education system to be resourced in the way that it needs to be to have good outcomes for every child, with every child being able to live up to their full ability. I also agree with her about the links between different public agencies and, indeed, the whole of our society in helping to support some of these children.
The hon. Lady asks about improving and funding alternative provision. The high needs budget has risen significantly in the past few years. The proportion of that which has gone to AP has stayed broadly the same. As she will know, the cost-per-place in AP is considerably higher than it is in mainstream. The quality of AP is also typically higher. We know from Ofsted reports that we have a percentage in the mid-80s for the number of AP settings being rated as good or outstanding. I wish to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the amazing people who run some of these AP settings and the staff who work in them. The key to continued improvement in AP is getting more high-quality people to want to work there, which is a theme we will have to come back to again and again.
The hon. Lady asks whether we have a proposed approach on accountability. She will not be surprised to hear that we have talked about a number of potential approaches. Obviously, I think that some have more potential than others, but I am also conscious that there is a big risk of unintended consequences when we change anything to do with the system in education—she will have seen that. We need to get this right, which is why I have committed to working closely with the sector to make sure we co-design the system.
The hon. Lady also asks about off-rolling and whether schools would be held to account for off-rolled pupils. Off-rolling is not legal. It should not be happening, and we need to make sure it does not happen. Some people say that there are shades of grey and it is not always clear what is allowable and what is not, so we will tighten up the guidance to make sure that there is far less room for interpretation and it is clear when it is allowable for a child to be moved out of school and when it is not. Through Ofsted, and the new framework, a spotlight will be shone on cases where it is believed that off-rolling may be taking place.
The hon. Lady talks about the gap between Ofsted inspections. Of course a number of different triggers can lead to an Ofsted inspection happening more quickly, and it is right that Ofsted has that range available to it.
I agree with the hon. Lady that every child deserves an excellent education that fosters ambition and helps them to make the very most of their potential, whether they are in mainstream or AP. If they move from one to the other, what happens at that moment might make the biggest single difference to the entire rest of their lives.
I strongly welcome this review and pay tribute to Ed Timpson and to the Department. It was good news that the Department is welcoming his recommendations, many of which we suggested in the Education Committee report that the Secretary of State highlighted. I urge him to speed up the timescales of implementation. Given that the review says that those who are excluded can be identified, what more is he doing on early intervention to prevent those exclusions happening in the first place? Finally, there is clearly a gap in post-16 alternative provision. Our Select Committee report recommended that resources be allocated for proper post-16 AP provision or outreach and support to colleges. What does he plan to do on those things?
My right hon. Friend is right about the distinction between pre-16 and post-16 provision. It is also true that, at 16, many children make a change in their place of learning—to a college or a further education college. There are also other types of setting to continue education or training. He asks about early intervention and was absolutely right to do so. There are, of course, many different types and many different stages of earliness of early intervention. What we are doing on exclusions is only one layer in a multi-layered approach to behaviour in schools. That starts with the very earliest type of interventions, which is early language, literacy and reading. If a child can access the curriculum and engage from an early age, it is much less likely that behaviour problems will start in the first place.
I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement. I welcome many of the recommendations made in the review—all eminently sensible recommendations. Of course young people do have a right to be educated in an environment that is conducive to good learning. Teachers also have a right to be able to work without fear or abuse. There are situations where the classroom environment becomes challenging for young people, but that does not mean that the young person should be prevented from accessing an education that is appropriate to their needs.
In Scotland, we are very proud of the work that we have done, and early exclusions have dropped by 59% since 2007. In 2016, just five young people were permanently excluded from the register, but achieving this drop has needed a lot of intervention and the use of things such as time-out rooms, pupil support and links to local further education colleges. In England, by contrast, the exclusion rates are increasing, and it is right that this should be dealt with. The Secretary of State said that 85% of schools do not permanently exclude, but that means that 15% do.
Off-rolling is passing on problems, and it must stop. We do not remove pupils from rolls in Scotland. They will continue to receive an education while excluded, either at school or at another location. Does the Secretary of State agree that, before any exclusion takes place, there should be an agreed plan put in place on what the next steps are for the particular child?
The Secretary of State talks about carrying weapons. Research by Edinburgh University shows that young people excluded from school are much more likely to end up in the criminal justice system or to be drawn to carrying weapons. Schools play a key role in protecting children from exploitation, so does he agree that joined-up work with challenging pupils alongside the police and social workers can have much better long-term benefit for the children than excluding them from the classroom?
Finally, does the Secretary of State agree that pupils with additional support needs, including those on the autistic spectrum, often need proper learning plans put in place, including resources and funding, to properly support them and ensure that they can continue to access mainstream education?
I thank the hon. Lady for her questions. Of course I agree entirely with what she says about the need for appropriate support for children on the autistic spectrum or, indeed, for children with other special needs.
I acknowledge that Scotland has a very different approach to exclusions. I believe that the approach that we have in England is the right one, but it is right also that we have such reviews to make sure that exclusions are being used fairly and justly and are not affecting particular groups disproportionately.
The hon. Lady mentions the carrying of weapons and the fact that being in school is a protection against that. She is absolutely right about that, but it would be wrong to think that the sole or primary cause of a child not being in school is being excluded. Persistent absence is at least as big a deal.
Finally, I do recognise that the number of exclusions has come down very significantly in Scotland. The hon. Lady mentions that they are lower now than they were 10 years ago, but it is also true that exclusions in England are lower now than they were 10 years ago.
Alternative provision often takes too long to access and is a last resort, when in many cases it can be a positive experience for pupils and their families much earlier on. What can my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State do to ensure swifter access to—and the removal of stigma from—alternative provision?
As my hon. Friend says, there is some fantastic alternative provision, some of which I have had the opportunity to see. The requirement to find a place in alternative provision applies from day six, but the guidance is clear that this should be done sooner where possible, and from day one for children in the care system.
I strongly welcome the publication of this review today, even though it is slightly overdue. I can see where Edward Timpson has held firm with the Government, and perhaps some other areas that the Government have asked him to water down slightly.
Okay, the Secretary of State suggests not. Let me put it a different way then. One area that I feel could be strengthened is around the safety net and the powers of local authorities to require schools to keep children on their roll. The new guidance on managed moves and the local authority’s powers to convene local forums are welcome, but that will not be sufficient where schools want to opt out of in-year fair access protocols in their area.
I am very clear that the ultimate decision to expel a child—a decision that is always taken with a very heavy heart when it needs to happen, after many other options have been looked at—is for that headteacher and that school. However, we want schools to work co-operatively, and there are some great examples of that around the country, including at both maintained schools and academies. Of course, local authorities also play an important role in that regard.
Off-rolling is often just the start of a conveyor belt that leads to pupil referral units, which too often are county lines recruiting grounds and villain academies. What is the Secretary of State going to do to ensure the rehabilitation is not just lip service and that we enable all students a second chance?
I totally agree. Rehabilitation is the opportunity for a second chance. What happens in alternative provision is an exceptionally pivotal moment in a young person’s life, which is why the quality of that provision is so important, as is attendance. As I have said, AP is of a very high quality in the great majority of cases.
I welcome the publication of this report, but I am really worried by the number of families coming to me because of real problems with their children not getting special educational needs support in schools. The parents end up having to try to home school their children instead, without the crucial support that they need. There has been a 40% increase in the number of permanent exclusions in my area in just a small number of years, and I cannot see in the Secretary of State’s statement the reassurance for those families that they will get that SEN support by this time next year. What will have changed in the next 12 months to bring the number of exclusions down?
The right hon. Lady raises two different issues that have some relationship to each other, but are not the same subject. She is absolutely right that we have to have the right support to provide a tailored and fully enabling education for all children; our 2014 reforms were possibly the most important for a generation in that regard. Education, health and care plans are an important step forward. More money is being spent on high needs than used to be, but she is absolutely right that we need to continue to strive to do better.
Headteachers across the Wells constituency have shared with me their concerns that although our local PRUs are excellent, they are increasingly being funded by contributions from the local schools to plug gaps left by reductions in the county council’s budget. Will the Secretary of State confirm that he will be speaking to the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to ensure that vital units such as PRUs are funded properly across all interested agencies?
As I said earlier, the cost per place at an alternative provision setting is considerably higher than at a mainstream setting. That cost comes out of high-needs budgets, on which there have been considerable strains—from alternative provision, and in a bigger way from special schools and SEN provision. That is one reason why we were able to find an additional £250 million over two years to help ease some of the strains on local authority budgets.
I was the Minister for behaviour and exclusions when the statistics show that the figures started falling after 2007, and continued to fall. I am afraid that those figures came down because we actively pursued a policy—from the centre of government—to reduce exclusions through behaviour partnerships and of every child mattering. It needs leadership from Ministers to do something about this issue. Unless the Secretary of State really gets a grip on the situation, the figures will continue to rise, as they have done for the past few years, so will he commit to making this issue a central priority, and direct schools to be more responsible and work in partnership to reduce unnecessary exclusions?
We do want to reduce unnecessary exclusions. I noticed what the hon. Gentleman managed to do there; he presided over this responsibility at a time when the number of exclusions were higher than they are today, and he has used that to say that the number of exclusions were falling during that time. In the positive spirit in which he meant his question, yes, of course I agree that addressing the situation requires a concerted effort at all levels and in all parts of the system, with the Government, schools and, crucially, groups of schools working together locally.
Staff at PRUs do a vital job under often extremely difficult circumstances. I do not know about other constituencies, but the PRU in Stafford has for many years been housed in a completely inadequate building that is located in totally the wrong place. What can we do to ensure that staff and students at PRUs have a place that is appropriate, and that will hopefully enable students to go back to their mainstream schools as soon as possible and not be diverted?
My hon. Friend is right to identify that it is people who make the difference. People make the difference in the whole education system, but particularly in this part of it. Leaders and individual teachers can inspire young people and turn their lives around. It is also important that there is the right environment. Some 42 alternative provision free schools are open, and there are a further 12 in the pipeline as part of our ongoing large commitment of capital to increase the number of overall places in the education system, and of course for condition funding.
I was a bit surprised to find out that the review was published on the same day as the Government response, because we have been waiting for the review for some time and it is my understanding that it is not normal practice for the Government response to be published on the same day. But it is nice to have the Government response because it seems as though they are now actually going to do something. The problem is that we urgently need to do something about off-rolling. Ministers have previously come to the Select Committee on Education and said that off-rolling is illegal, and the Secretary of State has reiterated that this afternoon. But it is still happening and Ofsted is still giving “good” judgments to schools that are off-rolling pupils. Off-rolling is bad and it is happening all too often—rarely by comparison to the whole cohort of children, but there are still tens of thousands of youngsters around the country who have been off-rolled. It needs to stop. The consequences are bad for the children themselves, who all too often get no education whatever, but the consequences for the communities that they live in could also be very serious, as we know that excluded and off-rolled children become embroiled in the criminal justice system.
The hon. Gentleman is right. Off-rolling is wrong and should not be happening. There are different categories within off-rolling, and Ofsted will be looking at this issue in its new framework. There are two ways to look at the question of our response coming out on the same day as the report: a positive way and a negative way. I prefer to see it as a same-day service that demonstrates urgency.
I welcome the Secretary of State’s approach to the Timpson review and the clear action that he set out in respect of off-rolling, which is when children are pushed out of education. Will he also give some attention to the situation that occurs when the relationship breaks down between the school on the one hand and the parents and pupil on the other hand, which often leads to parents taking their children out of formal schooling, so they then often receive no education at all?
Yes, my hon. Friend is absolutely right. The relationship between families and schools is absolutely at the heart of education. Of course we want those relationships to be as strong as they can and for people on both sides to keep on working at them for the good of the child.
One of the things in the report that I found particularly concerning was the talk of the children at multiple risk—at risk not just because they have special educational needs and disability but because they have SEND, they are from an ethnic minority background, and they are from a disadvantaged background. I fear that where we talk about the problem of exclusion, there could be a perverse incentive for schools to increase off-rolling and, even worse, to refuse to admit children with these characteristics in the first place. What powers can the Government give to local authorities to compel schools to accept children with these characteristics and to readmit children who have been off-rolled?
Of course, schools must have fair admissions policies, and that is absolutely right. It is also right that we at the Department for Education and local authorities, working together, need to make sure that the support is there for schools to be able to do their very best for the children concerned. The hon. Lady has my continued commitment to that.
Edward Timpson’s report identifies that moving from primary to secondary school can be a difficult time for children, leading to a rise in exclusions during the transition period. Stockport has a programme that identifies children in primary school who need extra support at that time. Without this support, which includes working with families, schools and mentors, vulnerable children are likely to fail or be excluded. The lack of funding limits the number of children who can be helped. What extra funding will local authorities receive from the new practice improvement fund to help with the primary-to-secondary transition?
I do not know the specific answer on the practice improvement fund. There are parts of the country where we are looking at this if it is a long-standing issue. The primary-to-secondary-phase transition manifests itself in a number of different ways. It can be a very daunting prospect for a child moving sometimes from quite a small, manageable school where they know most people to the much bigger and, in some senses, scarier environment of secondary school. Summer learning loss is another feature of this. I will take care to look at the example in Stockport that the hon. Lady mentions.
Last year, an academy in my constituency temporarily excluded nearly a quarter of its pupils. That is over a third of all exclusions across Barnsley. The Minister said that there is no right level of exclusions, but surely he will agree that these figures are far too high. Can I push him again on what the Government are proposing to do to tackle excessive exclusions in our schools?
Most of my statement was a response to the hon. Lady’s question, or at least indirectly. There is no right level of exclusions to pursue, but obviously we would all like exclusions to be lower, because that means more children being in school in a stable education and not having to move elsewhere in the system. I do not know if she was trying to make a specific point in mentioning academies, but overall academies and local authority maintained schools have broadly the same rates.
I broadly welcome this report. The Secretary of State will be aware of the analysis by the Education Policy Institute that shows that just 6% of schools account for almost a quarter of unexplained pupil exits. That equates to a whole class of 30 pupils over the course of their schooling in secondary school leaving with no explanation. That is wholly unacceptable. The EPI is now seeking to establish which academy chains and local authorities have particularly high rates. Given that it is unlawful, what will be the consequences for the academy chains and local authorities that are responsible for this outrageous practice?
With respect, the right hon. Gentleman has made something of a leap. It is correct that off-rolling is not legal, and through the Ofsted framework we will make sure that a light is shone on that, but that does not mean that every child in an analysis of unexplained exits has been off-rolled. There are a number of different reasons why children might be leaving school—emigration, for example—and it is important not to conflate them all.
The Minister might be aware that in the 10 years that I was the Education Committee Chair, Edward Timpson was one of the most thoughtful and hard-working members of that Committee, so I expected a good report, and this has some very good elements. May I take the Minister on to the central call for early intervention? The fact is—I hope he will agree with this—that early intervention depends on good data on what is going on in schools: how much bullying there is, how much absence, how many attacks on teachers and so on. The data is there; the problem is who acts on it. Much-weakened local authorities find that hard because they do not have the resources to act quickly or effectively. Ofsted has fewer resources than it had before to take action. That means that the central Department that he heads up has more and more power. If a school is badly managed, we get these problems, so the necessity to get it back on track with good management must be our responsibility.
The hon. Gentleman is right about the usefulness of data, but it is also true to say that data has its limits. School management teams use other ways that are at least as important to really understand what is going on in a school. However, he is right to talk about the quality of leadership and management because, as with so much else in education, that is fundamental. He asked about early intervention. I mentioned early years literacy, but also, in a different sense of early intervention, we have recently made some announcements about a behaviour support network backed by £10 million of funding to make sure that good practice on behaviour policy and behaviour management within the school system—there is some fantastic practice out there—can get propagated throughout the system.
When these documents—the Timpson review and the Government’s response—were published today, large-print copies were not produced for me. It is unacceptable that I still do not have a large-print copy of either document. Will the Secretary of State ensure and guarantee that I will get those large-print copies as soon as possible?
Turning to my question, I ask the Secretary of State again: does he believe that schools and other support services have the funding they actually need to make these early interventions the norm for some of our most vulnerable pupils?
On the hon. Lady’s second point, I do recognise that funding is tight in schools—we have had discussions and debates about that in this House on a number of occasions—but there is also truly outstanding practice in our education system. We need to make sure that where outstanding practice exists, it can also be spread. On her first point, I am sorry—I did not know about the absence of a large-print version of the report and I will see to it that she is furnished with one.
I welcome this review by Timpson. It is very well considered and speaks home truths that the sector and many Members on both sides of the House have been trying to get this Government in front of and to pay attention to. I look forward to the implementation of the Government’s response published today. We know from the report, as we knew before its publication, that 20% of all those excluded were done so under the category of “other”. We also know that 80% of those excluded have special educational needs or are disabled learners. [Interruption.] The Secretary of State questions that. The figure is 44% on temporary exclusions and 46% on fixed, so cumulatively it is 80%—in fact, more than that. What will he be doing differently in following up the Government’s response to ensure that this is not just a report on how to exclude well but on how to design a system that is inclusive for learners in mainstream schools with special educational needs and disability? Some 80% to 90% of tribunals have found in favour of parents who take local authorities to court because they have been let down by SEND support in mainstream education. It is cheaper to do more a lot earlier.
The position on children with special educational needs and exclusion is a very important subject. It is quite a complex picture. Alongside today’s report, we have published some quite detailed analysis on the odds on different groups being excluded, when we control for other facts. As I say, it is quite a complex picture, and I would encourage the hon. Gentleman to have a look at it. However, he is absolutely right that the early support we can give to children with special educational needs, which often means the support that we give to schools and to teachers in schools, is incredibly valuable.
The report paints a powerful picture of many of the issues faced by those of us working in communities with children who are at risk of violence and of being violent, and in particular the all-too-familiar story that when a child is excluded from school, that sometimes means they are forgotten, rather than it being a trigger for intervention. In Walthamstow, over the past year, we as a community have been looking at mentoring in our schools, to try to work with some of these young people. Will the Secretary of State meet me and some of the community groups involved in that work, to see what we can learn from it and help to ensure that every child has a bright future within education?
This is all about leadership. We need to know who is responsible and accountable at a local level for the education of all the young people, so that no one gets left at the edges. Will the Secretary of State look at ensuring that there is not only co-ordination but responsibility in behaviour partnerships or the local authority, so that intervention takes place, to tackle this issue once and for all?
The hon. Gentleman is right—I am not surprised; he is often right about these things—about the importance of collaboration and co-operative working. There are great examples around the country of that happening between different types of school. It is not usually about the formal management structure; it is about everybody seeing the shared interest and working together, and that is what we encourage people to do.
Youth work offers young people the opportunity to access education in an informal environment. We know that good youth work and strong youth workers can support young people and their families to engage with schools and teachers, in order to prevent exclusions, but we have lost 3,500 youth workers since 2010, and more than 800 youth centres have closed—the system is creaking. What commitment can the Secretary of State make to look at working with the youth work sector in order to support the education sector and some of the most vulnerable young people in our communities?
I agree with the hon. Lady about the importance of different agencies—different parts of the public, private and voluntary sectors—working together on this, and that includes youth work. Some very good programmes are run in different parts of the country, and generally speaking, people find that partnership working pays off.
I share concerns raised by Members about exclusions and illegal off-rolling, but schools make use of other tools and practices to remove children—particularly SEN children—from classes, such as isolation booths. Those booths are barbaric, leaving children in what is essentially solitary confinement for the school day. I have even heard stories of children being placed in these booths due to poverty-related incidents, such as wearing the wrong shoes for the day. That is quite simply unacceptable. What is the Secretary of State doing to address the serious issue of isolation booths?
It is right that schools set their behaviour policies, but of course those have to be reasonable, and that is what we expect throughout the system. We have guidance on these things, and as part of the response to this report, I have committed to update the guidance on a range of matters relating to exclusions and behaviour, including that one. That is not to say that the use of isolation as a punishment and a deterrent is wrong in all cases. When people use that term, it does not mean the same thing in all schools, and what the hon. Gentleman describes is not necessarily what we find in other places.
I think all Members across the House recognise that many of these excluded young people are the most vulnerable, but we should also recognise that a lot of them are deeply traumatised. Will he look into the excellent work of the Trauma Recovery Centre in Bath, engage with the all-party parliamentary group for the prevention of adverse childhood experiences and look at whether all schools in England can become trauma informed?
Yes. The recognition of childhood trauma is incredibly important. There is a very heavy overlap between children in need who are known to social services and those exposed to childhood trauma. We know that that group is more likely to be excluded, so I welcome what the hon. Lady says and the focus that her group brings to the issue.
In order to learn lessons, will the Secretary of State publish a list of the 47 schools with in excess of 10 expulsions a year? Given the fact that off-rolling is a huge issue, will he also publish the list of 300 schools with “particularly high levels” of pupil movement? What action are the Government taking to deal with the increasing issue of off-rolling or children who are missing from the system? Many Members have raised concerns. What extra resources are available to back up these recommendations? Finally, how will he continue to update the House? It needs to be regularly. We have waited since before Christmas for the Timpson review, and we cannot have delays like that again for updates.
I will be happy to continue to update the hon. Lady. We have Education questions regularly, and there are other opportunities to be kept updated. She asked about the publication of lists. This report was a major piece of work to find out the reality of practice and how it varies in different places for different groups of children. It is a very valuable piece of work for that reason.
On the hon. Lady’s point about the small number of schools with a large number of exclusions, it is necessary to remember that that might be in one year, and in other years the school is not in that position. Sometimes it is because a school has a particularly troubled set of circumstances—a new headteacher comes in, or there is a change, and various measures have to be taken. As I say, I think all of us would like to see the number of exclusions be lower rather than higher, but that is not to say that there is never a role for exclusion.
This afternoon, the Secretary of State has admitted that he knows school funding is tight and that the earlier we intervene with children who have special educational needs, the better. I agree with him. I am fed up of schools in my constituency telling me about the impact of real-terms cuts to their budgets, which tend to hit specialist services the most. Will the Secretary of State finally commit to reverse those real-terms funding cuts and stick to his word, to ensure that children with special educational needs get the support they need at an early stage?
I do say, as I said earlier, that funding is tight in schools, and managing school budgets can be challenging. It is also true that we are holding real-terms per pupil funding constant at the macro level. It is also true that, internationally, we have relatively high state spending at primary and secondary level. It is also true that the high-needs budget has risen from £5 billion to more than £6 billion. All those things are true simultaneously. There has been more money going in, but it is very difficult. There have been specific cost pressures for schools. I recognise that, and the hon. Lady has my continued commitment to ensure that we get the right level of resourcing that we need for an excellent education for everyone.
It is reported that Gloucestershire has the highest level of exclusions in the south-west. The one thing that is missing from this very good report is any quantitative evidence. It would be useful to know that the Secretary of State is prepared to look at the differences between not only schools but local authority areas, to ensure that we bear down on areas that do not seem to have an appropriate strategy.
The hon. Gentleman has my commitment on that. We have looked, and Edward has looked in his analysis, at not only the differences between schools within an area but the differences between local authority areas, at different levels of geography and in different segmentations and typologies.