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Review of practices to prevent school exclusions, maintain engagement and support transition back into mainstream education following fixed-term exclusions.

Rates of permanent and fixed-term exclusions have increased compared to before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, rates of permanent and fixed-term exclusions (of 5 days or less) had increased each year since 2014/15.

Participants described that schools and pupil referral units (PRUs) are experiencing an increase in challenging behaviour from children and young people in recent years, at a time when they also report a constraint in resources which reduces the support they can offer to children at risk of exclusion.

Stakeholders reported that accessing external specialist provision for schools is challenging as there can be a lack of relevant specialist provision in some areas, poor awareness of services among school staff, or long waiting lists where provision is available. Senior school leaders indicated that they struggle to recruit specialist expertise, face mixed availability and coverage of staff training, and find it challenging to allocate funding and time off from teaching for staff to attend training.

The most common form of support that participants from local authorities, schools and PRUs said would help them to prevent exclusions was additional funding and resources; they reported that this would allow them to implement interventions, employ additional or specialised staff, and provide staff training to fully meet the emotional and behavioural needs of their children and young people.

Stakeholders reported that internal exclusions (removal from the classroom) and reduced timetables were both being increasingly used in schools and PRUs. There were however concerns that their increasing use reflected the pressure that school staff experienced in managing children’s behaviour and may not address the root causes of disruptive behaviour depending on how they are being used.

The literature review identified a range of evidence-based universal and targeted school-based approaches and interventions with the potential to prevent school exclusions:

  • Restorative practice (an approach to conflict resolution that focuses on repairing any harm that has been done and includes all parties involved), followed by school-wide approaches to addressing behaviour were the universal school-based approaches (those delivered to all children) that had the strongest evidence base for preventing exclusions. 
  • Mentoring (one-to-one support from an older peer or adult) demonstrated the most consistent positive impacts for targeted school-based interventions (those delivered to specific children or groups of children) for preventing exclusions.
  • Careful consideration should be paid to a school’s individual context when choosing and implementing practice. 

Stakeholders highlighted further practice that was considered important for preventing exclusions and supporting reintegration following exclusions: 

  • Clear communication and positive relationships between schools, PRUs and families was seen as important. Parents and carers welcomed proactive and regular engagement from school staff, although staff noted that some parents were reluctant to engage. In addition, parents and carers reported how challenging it can be when a child is at risk of exclusion or has been excluded and family support that the school offered or signposted them towards was typically well-received. 
  • Multi-agency collaboration was identified as fundamental. Stakeholders particularly highlighted the importance of close partnership working between school and inclusion staff in local authorities to ensure that school staff were aware of, and could access, support as early as possible for children at risk of exclusion. It was reported that this was not consistently happening, with some school staff unaware of the support services available in their area.
  • Children and young people, and parents and carers indicated that they would like to see earlier identification of children’s needs followed by tailored support. They also reported the need for an improved level of understanding among school and PRU staff of the reasons behind children and young people's behaviour. 
  • There was a desire for greater discussion and sharing of practice between schools about how to prevent exclusions and support reintegration. Local authority staff would also like more opportunities to discuss practice with colleagues from other local authorities.
  • Feedback on the Welsh Government guidance on exclusions was positive and it was being used regularly, although participants suggested changes to improve the practicability and ease of navigation.


Daniel Burley

Rydym yn croesawu gohebiaeth yn Gymraeg / We welcome correspondence in Welsh.


Telephone: 0300 025 8099

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