£2.55m funding boost for research into impact of UK school exclusions

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Category: News

New ESRC grant will see first-time multi-disciplinary research conducted on consequences of school exclusions across the UK, led by the Department of Education at the University of Oxford.

A team of researchers operating across Oxford, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast and the London School of Economics (LSE) will further research into the impact of UK school exclusion after the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) awarded a large grant. The four year project will be led by Professor Harry Daniels and Associate Professor Ian Thompson at the University of Oxford’s Department of Education and is due to commence on 2 October 2019.

The ESRC has awarded £2,550,850 to develop a multi-disciplinary understanding of the political economies and consequences of school exclusion across the UK. The research will lead to a greater understanding of the cost of exclusions at individual, institutional and system levels, as well as pupils’ rights, entitlements, protection and wellbeing, and the landscapes of exclusion across the UK’s four jurisdictions.

There are vast differences in the rates of permanent school exclusion in different parts of the UK with numbers rising rapidly in England but remaining relatively low or even falling in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Latest figures show there were 7,900 permanent exclusions in England compared to just five in Scotland, not accounting for many informal and illegal forms of exclusion.

In this research, home international comparisons of historical and current policy, practice and legal frameworks relating to school exclusion will be conducted for the first time.

Ian Thompson, Associate Professor of English Education at Oxford’s Department of Education and Co-Principal Investigator for the research commented:  “Exclusions have long and short-term consequences in terms of academic achievement, well-being, mental health, and future prospects. Previous research and official statistics show that school exclusions are also far more likely to affect pupils with special needs, from low income families, and some ethnic backgrounds.”

Preliminary work conducted by the research team, which first established in 2014, has illustrated that pressures on schools to perform well in examination league tables can lead to the exclusion of pupils whose predicted attainment would weaken overall school performance. As a consequence, pupils who do not conform to the rules can be excluded to the social margins of schooling.

“Exclusion is a process, rather than a single incident, that can only be fully understood when examined from multiple professional and disciplinary perspectives,” said Harry Daniels, Professor of Education at Oxford’s Department of Education and Consultant Principal Investigator for the work. “Education policy has also largely ignored the work conducted by school and welfare professionals that attempts to address disruptive behaviour to prevent more serious incidents. This project therefore aims to highlight ways in which fairer and more productive outcomes can be achieved for pupils, their families, and professionals by comparing the ways in which policy and practice around exclusions differ in the four jurisdictions. “

The research is organised into three work strands: landscapes of exclusion; experiences of exclusion; and integration. The landscapes of exclusion strand examines the ways in which policies and legal frameworks shape interventions designed to prevent exclusions; the financial costs associated with exclusion; and patterns and characteristics of exclusion. The experiences of exclusion strand focuses on families’, pupils’ and professionals’ experiences of the risks and consequences of exclusion. The integration strand will integrate these findings to ensure that the learning is continuous as the research develops a coherent multi-disciplinary understanding of the political economies of exclusion.

These analyses will involve the cross cutting themes of: children’s rights, youth crime, values and the role of religion, geographical context, gender and ethnicity, social class, special needs and disability, and mental health.