Speaking at a roundtable at the Centre for Social Justice on alternative provision and exclusions, Damian Hinds vowed to tackle school exclusions, saying that he would not rule out legislation to ensure more accountability for schools that permanently exclude students and place them in alternative provisions
The education secretary promised that once Edward Timpson’s review has concluded action will be taken and pledged to create an equality of ambition between mainstream schools and alternative provision in order to improve the educational outcomes for some of the most vulnerable children in the country.
Mr Hinds said that he was clear that schools will still reserve the right to exclude as a last resort but, where pupils are excluded, the quality of education they receive should be no different than in mainstream settings.
Focusing on an inclusive education system, he discussed how mainstream schools, alternative provision, and local authorities can better support these young people to fulfil their potential, regardless of the challenges they may face.
This comes as new research published by the DfE found that many alternative provision settings have features valued by pupils and their parents, such as small class sizes and good pastoral care. However, the findings also suggest parents whose children enter alternative provision often feel anxious about the quality of their education, or embarrassed that their child has moved out of mainstream school.
The research also highlights that some councils, schools and alternative providers are developing effective commissioning and funding arrangements with mainstream schools to help them be more inclusive of children with additional needs.
Evidence shows children educated in alternative provision are less likely to achieve good GCSE grades and are less likely to be in education, employment or training post-16.
Mr Hinds also responded to a report from the Education Select Committee on alternative provision and exclusions, highlighting the government’s work underway to improve standards, including:
- Nine new projects through the £4m Innovation Fund that help pupils back into mainstream education when it’s right for them, encourage parents and carers to be more involved in their child’s education, help young people make good academic progress and move on to further education or employment;
- A ‘roadmap’ setting out how to improve outcomes for children in alternative provision, so that every young person in the care of these settings gets a good education;
- New evidence about how schools are supporting children at risk of exclusion, and examples of good practice in alternative provision commissioning and funding; and
- Edward Timpson’s ongoing review of school exclusions.