How Can Schools Reduce Student Exclusion?

25 August 2023
Group of people sitting around a table chatting

How can schools reduce exclusions in effective ways? Especially for students where we really have no alternative option. (John, Durham)

Train your staff in effective behaviour management

Firstly, you need to look at the system, staff must all be trained extremely well in effective behaviour management, and this must be continuous training, you need to sustain it.

The schools who reduce exclusion do not have fancy strategies they instead have well-trained teachers who do their absolute best not to send children out of the classroom.

Once you start to keep children in the classroom and persuade them that they’re not going anywhere, that the classroom is a better place for them to be and that they can be successful in the classroom, suddenly school exclusion starts to reduce.

If children are in classrooms they’re not lingering around corridors and getting into trouble or abusing other teachers and staff and subsequently getting excluded.

Part of the solution for reducing school exclusion is to look at how you manage behaviour in the classroom.

Consider if your school has the right ‘on call’ team

Next you need to look at what happens when the call out teacher arrives at your classroom.
Is the child taken away for the day or are the staff well trained and able to quickly reintegrate a child?

Well trained staff can calm the child down and begin restorative practice at the door, whilst working with the teacher to get the pupil back into the lesson without undermining the teacher’s authority. These staff swiftly get the child back into learning.

The schools able to follow this process manage to get children back into class and the isolation rooms are then used less frequently.

In turn, everything begins to calm down and both fixed term, and permanent exclusions decrease.

This ‘on call team’ is not just a random selection of staff, they’re trained extremely well, they know what they’re doing, and they have a plan which has previously been agreed with every member of staff.

Re-evaluate your school’s behaviour policy

Behaviour policy is also crucial.

Often, we find schools have extremely lengthy policies that are pages and pages long of ideas that do not sit together very well.

At the heart of this is often a ‘tariff’ where you have the ‘bad behaviour’ down one side and the punishment applicable for that behaviour down the other.

This then takes professional judgment away from teachers as they simply dish out the sanction for the behaviour that they have seen, i.e., a pupil is chewing gum, so they automatically are given an hour’s detention.
We need our teachers to be problem-solvers so that when they see a certain behaviour they think of a range of strategies and techniques they could use.

Tariffs encourage teachers to think less about what they’re doing and just rely on and follow the policy.
Policy is not what changes the culture, it is the behaviour of staff and their ability to apply the policy, sometimes to the letter, sometimes flexibly.

Often when you are dealing with the very poorly behaved children, they do not fit into these policies, they’re an afterthought and if you remove the tariffs and think of this 2% of children and how they’re going to react to the policy, then you start to be able to differentiate behaviour.

The danger of the tariff is also that when you reach the top you then MUST exclude the student and you think less about how you meet the needs of the learners.

Senior leader must be present around the school

A behaviour system is only successful when senior and middle leaders are present around the school.
The system needs to encourage senior staff to stand alongside classroom staff for consistency.

When inspection staff visit schools, everyone is out of their office, everyone is walking around the school and on duty, and there is no reason why this level of presence shouldn’t be seen every day if behaviour is a key issue for you in your school.

Visit our programme pages for more information on the Classroom Culture train the trainer programme, our Hearts & Minds INSET, or how your school can get a Behaviour Health Check.

For more answers to your questions see our Q&A introduction page.

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