Bristol School Exclusion Statistics – The Who And The Why

This week, we have already taken a look into Bristol School Exclusion Statistics – which schools are excluding pupils and how many of these exclusions have gone through the official exclusion process.

Today, we have more data about the types of pupils being excluded and why.

There are two key things to remember about this year’s exclusion data. The first is that it is affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and national lockdown.

The second thing to remember is prior to 2020/2021, a single reason was recorded for each permanent exclusion and suspension – formerly known as Fixed Term Exclusions (FTE).

Now, up to three reasons can be recorded without prioritising any particular reason. This means that the number of reasons for exclusion will not match the total number of permanent exclusions or suspensions in the same data capture.

How many pupils were excluded in Bristol during 2020/21?

There were 7 permanent exclusions and 3680 suspensions. Nearly half the number of suspensions represented pupils who had been excluded more than once.

When you compare the numbers to previous years, the number of permanent exclusions has increased, starting to return to the level of non pandemic years.

There has been a huge reduction in the number of suspensions at specialist schools, likely due to Covid school closures. Despite being expected to remain open, many had to close their doors due to staff shortages.

Whilst this number has increased slightly on last year’s numbers, the high number of suspensions from specialist settings is a curious one. Pupils arrive with an Education Health Care Plan (EHCP) for which the Local Authority should have provided funding. The pupil’s needs should be met in these specialist settings and questions should be asked around why so many are occurring.

Suspensions for secondary schools have dramatically increased despite closures, almost reaching the levels of the academic year prior to the global pandemic.

Permanent Exclusions by Reason
This year, there are other changes to the way data is captured. The category of ‘other’ is no longer there. However, there are new categories including ‘wilful and repeated transgression of protective measures in place to protect public health’ which will capture issues around Covid restrictions.

Persistent disruptive behaviour is the reason for the majority of these exclusions. Verbal abuse or threatening behaviour comes in second place. This is also echoed in suspension statistics.

Suspensions by Reason
Persistent disruptive behaviour is always the category with the highest number of suspensions. With ‘Other’ now gone, physical assault against a pupil is now in second place, with verbal abuse or threatening behaviour against an adult coming in third place.

There are no categories for pupils sent home by schools who deem their haircut, shoes or trousers to be inappropriate.

The reasons for exclusion usually cause friction on social media platforms between behaviourist educators, Send professionals and disability communities, often around unmet need and neurodivergent pupils. But there is a lot of value in what Send communities have to say.

Inflexible Ready To Learn behaviour policies at Bristol schools have previously been cited by education consultants as problematic in the city.

When looking at exclusions in the city, Review Report – Bristol Alternative Learning Provision – October – November 2020, which was commissioned by Bristol City Council said: ‘The majority of FTEs are not unsurprisingly from secondary schools. Most Bristol secondary schools work with ‘Ready to Learn’ or similar ‘Behaviour for Learning’ as a standard Behaviour Policy. Whilst there appears to be an evidence base that says ‘Ready to Learn’ is an effective whole school behaviour approach and some schools have described it in positive terms as ‘transformational’, it does generate high numbers of FTE (at least initially).

‘Whilst some might consider ‘Ready to Learn’ as a zero-tolerance or no excuses policy its supporters say it does allow for flexibility with some (cohorts of) children. In line with expectation and statutory requirements stating that schools have to take into account disability (discrimination) and equalities factors. Looking at the characteristics of both FTE and PEX pupils this does not always seem to be the case. Some schools are taking a more trauma informed, or relationship based, approach encouraged by the LA. The negative and cumulative life experiences, often driven by trauma (ACEs) and in many cases compounded by unassessed and unmet additional learning, social, communication & mental health needs (special educational needs and disabilities or SEND) cannot always be ameliorated by a year or two in AP. Children have often had multiple exclusions, managed moves, poor attendance and limited engagement in learning, extra familial harm, abuse, criminal exploitation and youth violence.’

Free School Meals
Pupils on Free School Meals, make up a significant number of exclusions. There are correlations between areas of deprivation and high numbers of suspensions.

One of the areas with the highest levels of deprivation – Hartcliffe – was recently found to have the highest number of pupils being home educated in the city This could potentially indicate off rolling in areas with high exclusion rates.

The ALP report also said that: ‘Boys feature highly in the numbers, as do children from financially deprived areas, children with SEND and Children and Young People from BAME communities are over represented in Bristol’s school exclusions.’

A heat map included in the report mapping Fixed Term Exclusions by ward, had the highest number in Avonmouth and Lawrence Weston, Lawrence Hill, Filwood and Hartcliffe and Withywood.

By Gender
Although boys usually have higher numbers of suspensions than girls, this does not mean girls are struggling any less in education. Their struggles are likely to be documented in a different data set due to gender inequalities.

Official exclusion statistics are just that. They don’t include those pushed out of school in different ways, Such as Alternative Learning Provision, out of education, home tutored, Managed Moves, Education Other Than At School, unlawfully excluded, in Pupil Referral Units or with hospital education services.

By Send Provision

Pupils on Send provision but without an EHCP, feature highly in exclusion statistics. Arguably, those being excluded but without Send provision may simply not have been identified at this point.

The 2019 Joint Ofsted and Send Inspection which took place in the academic year prior to this data set found a ‘significant weakness’ with ‘the inconsistencies in the timeliness and effectiveness of the local area’s arrangements for the identification and assessment of children and young people with SEND.’

As Bristol still awaits its re-inspection, it’s not possible to know at this point whether work done on the Written Statement of Action (WSoA) has improved this area. The exclusion statistics suggest more is needed to be done in this area.

Ethnicity and Ethnic Group
The language used to describe race in these statistics chart comes directly from the Department for Education.

Whilst white pupils are the largest group of excluded pupils, pupils from Racialised Communities are disproportionately more likely to be excluded.

Last year, 270 Black African pupils were excluded, 100 Black Caribbean pupils were excluded and 304 white and Black Caribbean pupils were excluded.

When adding up the number of pupils from all Minoritised Ethnicities, the numbers become significant.

Just last week, ahead of the exclusion statistics release, the Bristol Youth Mayors announced they would be working towards the city becoming a Zero Exclusions City. This movement originated with Black-led organisation No More Exclusions, in response to high numbers of black school pupils excluded by schools nationally:

For more on the latest exclusion data:

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