It’s time we talked about school exclusion

This week I had the absolute please of visiting Hawkswood and Burnside Pupil Referral Units, with my good friend and co-founder of Big Change, Princess Beatrice.

The pupils, teachers and parents we met, and the stories we heard, were not only inspiring, but incredibly challenging. It is reported that children born into poverty are not only four times more likely to be excluded from school, but just one per cert of excluded children receive 5 C grade GCSE's.

More alarming still, is that while one in 200 children are excluded from school, one in two members of the prison population are reported as having been excluded from school previously.

Statistics like these illustrate the urgent need for systemic change in the education sector, and Big Change Project Partner Kiran Gill, is a brilliant example of someone working to catalyse this change.

Kiran established project, The Difference, to reduce the number of exclusions from school and improve outcomes for pupils who are excluded. She has worked tirelessly to really put the issue on the map over the last year and, if supported and funded by government, the private sector and donors, The Difference will help to prevent long-term damage exclusion causes to young people (and their families).

Each excluded child is estimated to cost the state £370,000 each in extra education, benefits, healthcare and criminal justice costs. In 2017 alone, 6,685 young people were recorded as having been excluded – that’s a cost of £2.1 billion.

This figure however, is based on the ‘official’ number of young people excluded. The actual number of vulnerable young people receiving education within Alternative Provision – which caters for excluded pupils – was a staggering 48,000.

It’s an overwhelming problem that has fallen under the radar for too long, but after witnessing first-hand, the successes that ‘upskilled’ teachers – such as Marie Gentles at Hawkswood and Bridget Solecka and Catherine Davies at Burnside – can achieve for young people, despite limited support and funding, I know we have an opportunity to really change things for the better.

The Difference looks to train the next generation of educational leaders in supporting pupil mental health and the hardest to reach and most vulnerable children and we are supporting Kiran’s campaign to lobby the government to place more budget towards the crisis. We will also be using funds raised on the Virgin STRIVE Challenge 2018 to continue to support Kiran and The Difference. 

Thank you to everyone at Hawkswood and Burnside Pupil Referral Units for making us feel so welcome and for sharing your experiences – we can’t to see what brilliant things you go on to do.

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