School exclusions and managing ‘challenging behaviour’ – Welsh Government assessment
While Welsh Government has updated its guidance on the procedures for exclusions, there have been no significant legal or policy improvements, and rates of exclusions continue to rise. Children who are eligible for free school meals and learners 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. The Welsh Government consulted on proposals to reduce the use of restraint, but no further action has been taken.
- The rate of permanent exclusions from maintained schools in Wales has risen year-on-year between 2016–17 and 2018–19.
- 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 exclusions 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 exclusion rates for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils. The limited forthcoming data that are available suggest that the exclusion rate for Traveller children has been increasing and, in 2018–19, rose to 184.5 exclusions per 1,000 pupils compared with 42.8 exclusions per 1,000 White British pupils.
- The proportion of children educated in alternative provision increased from 3.2 per 1,000 pupils in 2016 to 3.8 per 1,000 pupils in 2019. Pupil Referral Units are the most commonly used form of alternative provision.
- Concerns have been raised about the use of ‘off-rolling’ – the process of pupils being removed from the school roll without a formal exclusion and primarily in the interests of the school rather than the learner – with evidence suggesting its increasing use.
- In November 2019, the Welsh Government updated its guidance on the procedures for exclusions and appeals in both mainstream schools and Pupil Referral Units; the sections which allow pupils to lodge appeals themselves remain, as does the right to be provided with an advocate.
- There is no legal duty on schools in Wales to record the use of restraint. As a result, there is almost no official data about how and when restraint is used. Parents, carers and teachers may not understand how or why schools use restraint, and schools may be less able to monitor and minimise its use.
- Following concerns about the absence of official data and monitoring requirements regarding the use of restraint, we are undertaking an inquiry into the recording practices of schools in England and Wales.
- There is currently no explicit prohibition of the use of restraint for disciplinary reasons in Welsh schools. The Welsh Government has consulted on proposals to reduce the use of restrictive practices in schools, in line with our human rights framework for restraint. However, the Welsh Government has not yet committed to introduce any proposals.
Read more about the UK and Welsh Governments’ actions on school exclusions and managing ‘challenging behaviour’.