‘It’s like being in prison’: what’s behind the rise in school exclusions? | Schools | The Guardian

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For children deemed destructive or unsuitable for children, the rejection of English schools has changed from last resort to punishment. Is there a better way?

He said: "I am at the top of many things, and there are not many black children in these classes, so I tend to stand out." "And, I'm still acting." There are many reasons for his behavior: "I have many things. To do. My mother had a miscarriage. My grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. I have a split uncle. I don’t say “I’m a good boy”. I’m bashing. But the worst part is that I’ve been with some The teacher talked about the reason."

Today, Lewis is

In Brixton, south London, this is a groundbreaking after-school project aimed at making young people activists and leaders. The students of the college proposed two measures aimed at highlighting the school’s exclusion: "No reason for loss" and "Free use of IC." Lewis participated in the latter project, which was named after IC3, which is short for black people identified by the police.

Both campaigns emphasize the fact that school exclusion has a disproportionate impact on black and minority children and young people and often represents the first step on the road to crime and imprisonment. Those involved told me that it is impossible to distinguish permanent and temporary exclusion from the "isolated units" in schools, in which case students are usually forced to spend several days in closed booths." "Internal" exclusion. Most rejections are the result of the zero-tolerance code of conduct commonly used in many schools, so answering or refusing to follow a certain instruction can quickly exclude someone from relatively trivial punishment.

Lewis and others also talked about student referral units (PRU), which deal with children who are excluded from public schools. They said that the unit is always of interest to the drug exchange. Lewis said: "The elderly in my area know that if you are looking for a runner and someone works for you, then the easiest place to see is the PRU, because the children do nothing." "Now, many people who participate in PRU It's all in a critical state." Kanqi is an abbreviation for country, a word for countryside.

Drug business.

Last July

It shows that in 2018-19, the temporary (or "fixed-term") rejection rate of English schools reached a 13-year high of 438,300, an increase of 7% over the previous year-partly due to repeated rejection of students. Permanent exclusion has hardly changed in the previous year, but

Five years ago.

It’s too early to judge the impact of the pandemic school closure, but

, The School Inspectorate stated that some schools appeared to have temporary exceptions at the beginning of the school year-because Covid restrictions reduced the available space for students who did not attend regular courses. But in any case, rejection has now become an indispensable part of the lives of thousands of schools and a routine experience for students and their families.

18-year-old Esther Atunrase is another young man behind IC Free. She told me that in school, “I was bullied a lot because of my tall stature.” She said that attempts at self-defense led to internal rejection. She described being placed in a booth, “You can’t talk to anyone here. If you don’t ask, you can’t stand up. Literally, it’s like being in a prison. I’ve been there many times. It’s innumerable. The longest time I have been there is one week-five consecutive days."

After sending an email to her former school, La Retraite, to Clapper Park in South London, I received two photos of compact spaces divided into stalls and decorated with Martin Luther King, Maya Photographs of Angelou and Nelson Mandela, as well as things like "A little positive thinking in the morning can change your whole day." The principal described it as: "A very warm classroom where students can get individual teachers in the classroom. The purpose of this is to reduce the need for external exclusion and to support students in making the right decisions in the future. In the reflection center, students will also receive support from members of the pastor’s team. However, students who spend time in the room may I don’t think this is a good space... Esther has overcome some challenges, including sports injuries-she does a good job in this area, and with the strong support of the staff here. This does include Some times on different occasions in the reflex center. Our records do not match her view of the event-this is to be expected."

A few days before meeting Esther and Lewis, I spoke to a teacher in London. She is very knowledgeable about the school's disciplinary system and has worked at PRU-like many people, she has experience of rejection and surrounding issues, and she insists on remaining anonymous. She said: "Suppose there is a fight." "There will be no "fights" in the school system: the only option is "beating", which is what you want to click. I have seen that children are excluded for reasons It does not reflect what happened. The same thing happened in the isolation room: the children were accused of crimes there. They were full of black children."

She said that in her PRU, only 3 of the 15 employees are qualified teachers. She meets "naughty but smart" kids who often feel "desperate"-especially if they are in grade 10 or 11 and are about to graduate. She said: "No study." "Children wearing headphones or playing cards; children show up when needed. It's like a bad youth club."


No single factor can explain why the rejection of English schools has changed from a last resort to punishment for destructive or unsuitable children. This is partly due to the 10-year austerity policy for pastoral care that may be helpful to children or young people in the first place, and the reduction of social care outside the classroom. The other is the decentralized school system, which frees some college chains from accountability. Finally, the focus is on exam success, the “outstanding” rating of school inspectors, and what politicians call “discipline”.

Since Michael Gove worked between 2010 and 2014, these people have been the voice of successive conservative education secretaries, and they often seem to believe in two obvious contradictions: reducing the number of exceptions, but at the same time

. Then, people became more and more worried about the number of people excluded, so that in 2018, the government commissioned

And then

"It is necessary to intervene as soon as possible to help the child, but we must exclude it." But since then, those in power continue to use very familiar vocabulary. The new Minister of Education Gavin Williamson (Gavin Williamson) took office for only one month in September 2019

If any principal decides "because they need to do so in order to suspend or expel a student so that proper and adequate discipline can be implemented in the school," they will have his support.

As the young people at the Advocate Institute pointed out, students with black Caribbean descent almost

As a white kid. In 2018-19, two groups had the highest exclusion rates: people from Gypsies and Roma families, and people classified as "Irish Heritage Travelers". In all categories

. Many people working in schools also talked about the strong class size and pointed out that children with special educational needs are very likely to face rejection.

One of the chains that has attracted the most attention from the exclusive policy is

There are schools from Nottinghamshire to the Northeast, many of which are referred to as "lagers." Outwood School presents itself as an engine of success and opportunity, and has developed a disciplinary policy around one main rule: "Rejection of reasonable requests" can be used as a basis for regular exclusions. In 2016-17, at least 20% of students in 45 schools in England were excluded.


After visiting Brixton, I met two families with children at Outwood Grange School. The 15-year-old son of Jenny and Martin, James, went to school at Outwood College in a former mining community. Divorced but in good conditions, both parents are in management positions by the local company. The story of James’s exclusion is full of small changes in school life: the allegation of chewing gum stuck under the table is said to have drawn a penis on the book and refused to hand over his mobile phone. James disputed many of the things that got him into trouble, but inevitably, doing so would make things worse. Martin said: "I have said to the school,'I don't want him to walk into this world, and don't challenge what he thinks is unfair or unjust." "However, children are not encouraged to have this type of discussion because you are just being The allegations rejected reasonable requests."

In James’ school, there is a “consequence” level disciplinary code (C4 is 30 minutes of detention, C6 is a fixed period of exclusion).

There are also isolation rooms, or some euphemistically called "reflection rooms" by the Outwood chain. James’ parents said that every time James’ exception was detained for at least half a day, his parents said that these exceptions would require a total of four school weeks. Martin said: "James described it as a small seat with a seat, not even his shoulders can sit in." "They must be silent for half a day or a day. They are allowed three restrooms. In theory, They work for them, but they are not."

When James was excluded, his parents told me that they received a call and that was it. Any work he was sent to do at home was trivial and had nothing to do with his GCSE. Jenny said: "It took him about half an hour to do it." "There are some things in it, such as'E before E to E outside of C': It's really basic. And anyway, nothing can be done. Instead of being with the teacher."

I spoke to Jenny again in November. She said that based on the teacher's assessment, James was awarded 6 excellent GCSEs, and before he could better consider and start his architectural apprenticeship, he briefly participated in the local Outwood sixth grade course to obtain three A levels. She said: "I'm glad he found what he wanted to do." "But it made me feel uncomfortable-if his education was normal, he could have chosen more things." She also said that it took him two years Time constantly collided with rejection and isolation, which caused huge losses.

Becky Hunter and her 14-year-old son Mackenzie live in Skellow, a former village near Doncaster. MacKenzie has autism and is in grade 10 at Adwood College in Outwick. In the 2017-18 school year, 27.9% of students were regularly excluded, which is the eighth highest among all schools in England The ratio.

When we met, Mackenzie was at home due to another fixed-term exclusion, this time because of refusing to sit in the "Reflection" booth. His mother told me that he was rejected 16 times in the 7th grade and 25 times in the 8th grade. Between September 2019 and March last year, he was sent home 11 times. Becky said that when he was in school, he often brought a laptop by himself and was told to be busy with math applications and reading exercises. When explaining Mackenzie's latest exclusion, she sounded a little tired. "This day and a half, because he refused to go to the booth. He was excluded for playing with the irritating toys they gave him. He was excluded because of work. He was excluded because of revenge against his children. Yesterday. , Another child turned off the laptop, so he threw a pencil at him. They asked him to go to the reflection room, but he refused.

She continued: "When Mackenzie was at home, he emailed the teacher and asked them to send him the job. But the only thing we got was this." She handed me an A5 manual, There are 16 pages that can be copied at will, which contain a guide to writing stories, titled "The Robbery" and some math problems. "He has had the same workbook for about two years. How many exercise books can you do?"

Mackenzie came in and stood beside her mother.

How does he feel about being rejected? "It's nice to leave that school, not a place where children can bully me. But it's horrible because I have no education." I asked him to describe the reflex room. "You have a chair and a desk. It has a side and a mirror-so if you lower your head, the teacher can see you." What will he do when he is there? "Just sit there and paint."

"Come in," Becky said. "The 9th year."

In the fall, I contacted Becky again.

Since September, thanks to a plan made with the help of a compassionate staff member, Mackenzie has only attended school for two and a half hours on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, focusing on math, English and food technology. At the same time, there are car mechanics on Tuesday and Thursday.

Becky told me that after three years of exclusion, she "did her best" to put these arrangements in place. "He is very backward, he knows it."

Outwood Grange Trust declined to answer specific questions about the James and Mackenzie case, but issued a short statement: “We just don’t acknowledge the comments made, and the parents of thousands of children did not attend our school. Ofsted told us recently. Our trust has been evaluated, and the numerous excellent Ofsted reports and the numerous inclusion awards we have won after reviewing our school underline this. We will be proud of our performance."

In Lincolnshire, they are trying different things. In 2017, the county council replaced its PRU with an alternative clause (or AP)-in this case, two compact children’s schools were excluded and opened on an unconditional basis

It is a treatment concept, which can be boiled down to an institutionalized kindness. Both by

It started in Barnsley, Yorkshire and now has 24 educational institutions.

On a Tuesday morning in March last year, I arrived at Wellspring AP in Grantham, Lincolnshire. There were about 50 students between the ages of 4 and 16, many of whom were permanently excluded or arranged for 16 weeks of placement. My tour guide is Dave Whitaker, the teacher who is the head of learning at Wellspring, and Phil Willott, the executive principal of the Grantham factory. As they showed me, the difference between AP and most mainstream schools is obvious. A child sits in the company of a teacher and instructs him to use an app that can monitor his heart rate and help educational psychologists call "self-regulation": keep yourself calm instead of succumbing to anger. At a nearby landing site, a big boy who had apparently left the class was being coaxed back. Almost every wall is hung with murals and emotional posters, filled with words such as "care" and "trust." There are no more than eight students in each class.

Many children have special educational needs. Whitaker and Willott say that most people’s personal experiences also include trauma. The way they are treated here depends on studying the impact of stress on children, and destructive and even violent behavior is often a misleading communication. Whitaker said: "This is neuroscience: it's not me and Phil to make up for it." "Some children are under constant pressure, which prevents them from making connections in their brains so they can work normally. They have to do it. One of the things is to adopt high-risk behavior. Tell the teacher that F-off is a high-risk behavior."

We may be in Lincolnshire, miles away from any major city, but there are also many problems related to the exclusion of urban areas. Whitaker said: "The children we received were excluded from mainstream schools because they carried knives." "We must have them because they are required by law to be educated. We remain vigilant. We have conducted a risk assessment. What if Yes, we will use metal detection. But what we have to do is make our relationship strong enough. In my opinion, children will stab people when they are angry or have resentment or problems with someone. We have no risk, But we are committed to relationship behavior management. Therefore, we will not force children into situations where they believe they must respond violently to us."

I met two students from AP. Emily is nine years old; Jade is 14 years old. I was told not to ask about their family life, but allowed to have two themes: how they feel about school and their past experience in the education system. Emily is smart, cheerful, and talkative. She said that after she left school, she wanted to "travel the world and try to help animals". How was her previous school? "I swear and start. But now, basically (they) are helping us not to retaliate. I know more about what the school is going to do."

Jade said that she wanted to do “things to help children, or do hair and beauty” and actually talked about the chaos of the discipline system she was used to navigating. "I was excluded from two schools. I was excluded from the 7th grade. I was sent to another mainstream school in the 8th grade and then excluded in the 10th grade." There was a brief pause. "It wasn't until recently that I found out that I was suffering from ADHD. I already took the medicine. My teacher said he thought I should increase the dose. He didn't know if it worked."

What does she do all day when she is excluded? "I'm watching TV. I really didn't bother. To be honest, I would rather be at home. I didn't learn a lot anyway. I was driven away from every class because the teacher could not handle me." Does she think she has been treated fairly ? "Sometimes I am because I am not the happiest person. But sometimes I think I should just isolate for one day instead of being excluded. But they start to get tired of... (long pause) trying to sort out me, they start Just excluded me, even the smallest things. Then they finally got rid of me."

After the first lock, Grantham AP remains open,

Although many children stay at home. Whitaker told me in October: “We have conducted hundreds of welfare visits and call every day.” “We have staff knocking on doors, delivering work, and monitoring distance learning. This is a very steep learning curve. "

What has happened since the students returned in September? He said: "There are still exclusions. We already have new referrals." "In the past few months, we have not opened some crazy floodgates. But it hasn't stopped."

Three weeks after visiting Grantham, I spent two hours on a harvester on the fringe of the big northern city, chatting with Ananya, a four-year-old mother , She is a middle school teacher. Her son Joe (16 years old) is a mixed-race of British Asian and Black British. After "schooling in a tree-lined village", he went to a college in the suburbs, which was run by a trust company that controlled 40 schools, where he was one of the few children who were not white. One.

Joe was predicted to perform well in middle school. But in the 9th grade, he was familiar with the school's disciplinary system: transcripts, detention, exclusion room. There is a background: Ananya was diagnosed with a serious long-term illness. She said: "I think I am very transparent about the school." "I said he is suffering from trauma. He must be checked and is anxious: "Do I also know? "The school said: "We will always pay attention to him, if he wants to talk to us, we are very happy. "It stays there."

In the first few months of grade 10, Joe started playing truant. Ananya received a call saying that the fireworks had been set off on the school playground. Joe refused to search his bag before leaving the school building. He was deported for three days. When he returned to school, he and his mother were told that he was the subject of allegations of illegal drugs, which meant that he was excluded for another 10 days. "The story has changed, from fireworks to drug investigation," Ananya said. "And I think this is a bit racially motivated." She insisted that there is no evidence: "This is based on rumors from other children."

By the end of that week, Joe had been permanently excluded. From November 2017 to March 2018, he did not receive any education until he was awarded the PRU position. The timetable is from 9 am to 1 pm. "There is no learning culture: it's just a tramp in the seat," Ananya said. Upon warning by the police, Joe was found carrying a small amount of marijuana and was permanently excluded from the facility. He quickly gets along with the elderly involved in gangs and crimes. The stab wound hospitalized him. Then, in the summer of 2018, Joe was arrested. "He was involved in a gun incident and shot a house. By then, it was obvious that he was involved in what you might call a gang or county line." Ananya said.

Joe was sent back to a young criminal agency, and then, out of maintenance considerations, he moved to southern England to live with his biological father. In his trial, people accepted his modification. Joe received a non-custodial community order. After a series of nursing care, he was finally allowed to live near his mother.

Soon after the first lockdown began, Ananya called me and told me that Joe had been shot and moved to an institution serving vulnerable children and young people. Then, six months later, I learned that he had been arrested for possessing what the law calls "leaf-shaped articles". Ananya said that his local authorities placed him in another city, where he will study A-levels: "He wants to live in his own place, in a random place, as far as possible." She told me Joe He was threatened at his residence. When he started the interview, he was holding a knife and was stopped by the police and searched.

He is now remanded in a prison in another part of the country. “Due to a shortage of personnel, he has to be kept in a cell a day, spending 23 hours a day”. Since March last year, Ananya has not seen his son again, and is worried that this pandemic may delay his trial. Next year, he will be 18 years old.

She said: "It's like bereavement, only your child is still alive."

If many of Joe’s stories happened outside of the classroom, then it seems that many of our schools and the way they work are painful facts. What to do with children who are serial, obsessed with the law or lose interest in education is an always valid question. But we treat recipients who may be traumatized, have special needs, collided with puberty, or are in other prejudices in the same way. Judging from the current situation, many other young people risked the destruction of their lives by policies, systems, and decisions that meet the “discipline” requirements, but have failed in care and basic humanity.

"Let's say that 80% of the children in the school reacted very well to the zero tolerance, no excuses policy," Dave Whitaker said. "Well, what about the other 20%? Will we accept them as collateral damage? Or will we improve the system to bring us closer to 100%?"

Ananya said: "When the children line up, the education system is great." "But if you deviate from the usual one second, then there is too little support. The children will be hurt."

• Some names have been changed.

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