Why ending school exclusions isn’t easy

The call to ban permanent exclusions in primary schools (Report, 29 April) is an admirable aspiration, but misses an important point. Our multi-academy trust comprises special, alternative and mainstream provision. We also have an outreach team that works with children and teachers in many mainstream primary and secondary schools across two local authorities.

We are finding that almost every child at risk of exclusion (or who has been excluded) has a special educational need of some kind, and the challenging behaviour being exhibited will be a manifestation of this. The only way to deal with this effectively is to focus on the underlying issues. This means early intervention, diagnosis and an education healthcare plan (EHCP) where appropriate, to ensure the child can access the right support in a setting that’s right for them.

But this is not easy, as it now takes longer than ever before to get an EHCP. This is partly due to a shortage of specialists such as educational psychologists and speech and language therapists, as well as the significant increase in the number of children with complex needs.

The recent special educational needs and disabilities green paper recognises many of these issues, so we are hopeful for improvement. But we must be clear that the only way to reduce exclusions at every stage of education is to ensure earlier, more effective intervention.
Neil Miller
London South East Academies Trust

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