Permanently excluded pupils in some areas of the country are not being provided with the full-time education to which they are legally entitled, figures obtained by Tes show.
Three authorities are only providing around half of their permanently excluded pupils with a full-time education. And nine authorities have failed to fulfil their legal duty for at least a quarter of these pupils.
Experts say this can be explained by shrinking budgets.
Colin Harris, a retired primary headteacher who has worked as a consultant at a pupil-referral unit (PRU), said: “Local authorities are expected to carry on and provide all the packages that are in place while their funding has been reduced.”
Secondary schools receive an average of £4,800 annually per pupil, he said, whereas a place in a PRU can cost double this amount. “It’s expensive,” Harris said. “And local authorities don’t have the resources.”
Behaviour expert Jarlath O’Brien added that pupil-referral units “are bursting at the seams”, leaving some pupils with little hope of finding a full-time place.
Department for Education guidance states that the local authority in which a permanently excluded pupil lives has a duty to provide full-time education from the sixth day of exclusion. However, 29 of the 118 local authorities that responded to Tes’ freedom of information request were not providing that for all such pupils who live within their jurisdiction.
In Hampshire, only 36 – or 63 per cent – of the 60 pupils who were permanently excluded between September 2016 and 30 June 2017 received full-time education. Three of the remaining 24 pupils are not Hampshire residents, so their education is the responsibility of their home borough. But the other 21 are being given only part-time education.
In Essex, only 68 per cent of the 156 pupils permanently excluded in 2016-17 were currently receiving full-time education.
A spokesperson for Essex council said: “They are receiving education commissioned by the local authority. In some cases, this may consist of a reduced timetable, which increases gradually and is reviewed regularly. Others will return to school and similarly may build up their timetable over time.
“A small number of pupils receive one to-one tuition, pending reintegration into a pupil-referral unit.”
In Wigan, meanwhile, the parent of one of the excluded pupils declined an offer of full-time education, opting to school the child at home instead.
Harris pointed out that, when an excluded child is home-educated, the authority is statutorily obliged to visit the home and look at what education is being offered. “But I know that very seldom happens, because of the resources available,” he said.
A DfE spokesperson said: “When any child is excluded for longer than five days, there is a duty on the local authority to ensure that they continue to receive a suitable education.
“The education must be full-time, or as close to full-time as possible. We are working closely with local authorities and schools, as well as providers of alternative provision, to ensure all children, including those who have been excluded, receive a high-quality education.”
Local authorities with the highest percentage of permanently excluded pupils not in full-time education
|Number of pupils excluded in 2016-17
|Percentage of permanently excluded pupils in 2016-17, for whom authority did not arrange full-time education
This is an edited article from the 15 September edition of Tes. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week’s Tes magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here