September 13th 2023.
More than one million days of learning have been lost for children in the UK due to record numbers of suspensions from school. The Department for Education data reveals that an average of 3,000 children each day are losing out on education as a result.
The report from the Who’s Losing Learning? Coalition uncovered that the majority of those being suspended come from economically disadvantaged families. Over half of suspensions took place among children living in poverty, who are 3.7 times more likely to be sent home than other children. This is even more concerning as suspensions among children in poverty have increased by 75%, compared to only a 4% rise for those not in poverty.
The report further highlights that children with social workers and those with special educational needs are even more likely to lose learning due to suspensions. Those in the highest tier of recognised need with Education Health Care Plans are 3.7 times more likely to miss out on learning.
The Who’s Losing Learning? Coalition is calling for a better understanding of the patterns and causes of this lost learning, so that policy can be introduced to support schools in dealing with the root causes. Pre-pandemic research has already established that repeated suspensions are a warning sign of the path to permanent exclusion.
The report also reveals that certain ethnic backgrounds are more likely to lose learning due to suspensions, with Black Caribbean children 1.5 times more likely than white British peers and dual heritage white and black Caribbean children 1.7 times more likely. Irish Travellers and Gypsy Roma Travellers are the most over-excluded, with 2.4 and 3.2 times more likely than white British children respectively.
Kiran Gill, CEO of The Difference and adviser to The Timpson Review of School Exclusions, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic may be over, but the pandemic of lost learning in England is growing. We should all be worried about the social injustice that the most marginalised children are those most likely to be losing learning through absence, suspension and exclusion.”
Gill emphasised the need for tools and policy to support school leaders in taking the same rigorous approach to understanding and raising standards in this area as they did successfully in teaching and learning over the past decade.
The suspension rate has seen the biggest jumps in the East Midlands, North West and North East, with inner London seeing the lowest increase. The costs to the state of permanently excluding children are significant, with nearly £370,000 in extra health, education, welfare and criminal justice costs for each person, and a total of £2.4 billion for this cohort.
It is clear that school leaders must be upskilled to better identify and respond to those children whose vulnerability is escalating. Suspensions must be seen as a potential to investigate the cause, and reduce the likelihood of further risk and harm.
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