“We can’t cope, they’ve gotta go…”
“We’ve tried everything we can”
“We’ve thrown everything at it”
“This just isn’t the right place for them”.
Is exclusion really the result of behaviour, or resourcing? Behaviour starts the engine of the process, but resource decisions define the destination. Would a school with adequate resources to manage a behavioural concern still exclude? Would a school with the training and skillset to adapt to behavioural concerns still exclude? Would the need for exclusion be so imminent if mental health services were able to help, faster ? Or behavioural support services were more widely available? Or if there was greater investment in CPD for staff in behaviour? What about if the families had better support?
What about waiting times for paediatricians? The cuts to teaching assistants who buffered environments for children unable to cope. The cuts on education that lead to reduced pastoral time. Would schools who could have these things back still need to exclude?
There will always be a case for safety concerns leading to exclusion as a last resort. But even this can be managed with the correct level of investment. When a child is excluded and attends a PRU or other setting, there is no magic potion given to the child. It is a different environment but one that could be replicated within any other setting and one that could be used to integrate the child back into their setting when it is appropriate and safe to do so. The skills and knowledge used by these excellent staff is transferable and teachable. It just requires the resources (and the will, but I would hope this is something we all strive for).
It’s ok to say we must play the hand we are dealt. But we must do so and still acknowledge the cards are fewer and worn down. We must make the case ever stronger for proper resourcing.
I want every school to have the resources, skills and knowledge to handle every behavioural concern. I want every child to have timely and thorough access to the services they need to enable them to access education successfully. At each stage in the education process, I want the child’s first school to be their last. Excluding a child pushes the problem elsewhere and creates the feeling of insecurity in any future placement . We shouldn’t have to keep excluding a child until they find a location resourced well enough to meet their needs.
If you disagree, and believe that even with all the resources to meet a child’s needs you would still choose exclusion – why? Consider if you are currently doing everything you can with this mindset.
Let’s make exclusion about resourcing, for the sake of the excluded.