School exclusions and managing ‘challenging behaviour’ – Welsh Government assessment
While the Welsh Government has updated its guidance on the procedures for school exclusion, there have been no significant legal or policy improvements, and rates of exclusion continue to rise. Children who are eligible for free school meals and those with additional learning needs remain disproportionately likely to be excluded. There are longstanding concerns about the excessive use of restraint in schools, and the lack of data on restraint limits schools’ ability to monitor and minimise its use.
- Our inquiry into the restraint recording practices of schools in England and Wales found that restraint in schools needs to be monitored, recorded and analysed to better understand how, where, why and when restraint is used, and how its use can be minimised. There is no legal duty on schools in Wales to record the use of restraint, although the Welsh Government is taking steps to improve recording and monitoring practices.
- The Reducing Restrictive Practices Framework is intended to lead to the reduction of restrictive practices in childcare, education, health and social care settings for people of all ages. The framework takes account of our human rights framework for restraint. However, it does not go as far as making the collection of restraint data in schools mandatory.
- In November 2019, the Welsh Government updated its guidance on exclusion and appeal procedures for both mainstream schools and pupil referral units (PRUs). The guidance makes clear the obligations of local authorities and educational providers under the Equality Act 2010 and international human rights treaties, namely the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
- The rate of permanent exclusions from maintained schools in Wales rose year on year between 2016/17 and 2018/19, but decreased in 2019/20. This may be related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The rate of fixed-term exclusions of five days or less increased from 34.4 to 39.1 per 1,000 pupils between 2016/17 and 2018/19.
- Figures show that pupils in Wales with additional learning needs have higher rates of exclusion than those without, and that ‘special schools’ have the highest rate of fixed-term exclusions of all types of school.
- The rate of exclusion in Wales for children who are entitled to free school meals is at least three times higher than for children who are not entitled to free school meals.
- The Welsh Government does not routinely publish data on permanent exclusion rates for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils. However, available data shows that this group of pupils has the highest rate of fixed-term exclusions.
- An October 2021 survey of 1,500 students found that boys were twice as likely to be excluded from the classroom as girls. However, girls from deprived socio-economic backgrounds were significantly more likely to be excluded than boys.
- The proportion of children educated in alternative provision increased from 3.8 per 1,000 pupils in 2019 to 4.8 per 1,000 pupils in 2021/22. PRUs are the most commonly used form of alternative provision.
- Concerns have been raised about the use of ‘off-rolling’ – the process of removing pupils from the school roll without a formal exclusion – with evidence suggesting its increasing use.
Read more about the UK and Welsh Governments’ actions on school exclusions and managing ‘challenging behaviour’.