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School Exclusion Risks after COVID-19 -

School Exclusion Risks after COVID-19

Published in 2020


School Exclusion Risks after COVID-19


Excluded Lives: Harry Daniels, Ian Thompson, Jill Porter, Alice Tawell and Hilary Emery Department of Education, University of Oxford

June 2020

This report looks at potential new and heightened risks for school exclusions caused by the recent Covid-19 pandemic. Exclusions have risen sharply in England in the last few years. Over-represented groups include children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), from particular ethnic backgrounds and those living in areas of high deprivation. We know the impact of Covid-19 on schools is substantial for practitioners and students. The social and emotional disruption caused by the pandemic and the subsequent school closures is highly likely to have increased or exacerbated student anxiety and other mental health issues. There is also a concern with school connectedness for vulnerable students whose patterns of school attendance have been disrupted. These concerns raise issues around transitions back to school settings.

Members of the Excluded Lives Research Team talked to practitioners, policy makers and professionals in different parts of England to glean an understanding of their perceptions of the situation, how at-risk students might be identified and what return to school support and guidance exists or can be developed to support practitioners (in-cluding implications for integrated, cross-professional working) as well as children and families. What rapidly became evident were the associated policy implications that emerged alongside implications for practice. We spoke to 70 people from 26 Local Authorities over 16 virtual sessions and individual meetings, and received an additional four written responses. This report draws on views from health (public heath, mental health, school nurses, and hospi-tal schools); education (primary, secondary, alternative provision and special schools, LA maintained schools and Academy Trusts, teacher training institutions, and virtual schools), criminal justice (police, lawyers, and restorative justice); Local Authority teams (working in exclusion, inclusion, behaviour and attendance, SENDIASS, parent support, school engagement, and fostering networks) and third sector voluntary organisations. We asked the following three questions:

1. What are the heightened risks for exclusion as schools restart? Which students are at risk?
2. How can we mitigate these risks? Who needs to act, when and how?
3. What is happening to currently excluded students including where there is no alternative provision?

Overall themes

A number of reoccurring themes emerged from our discussions that have broader implications for the formulation of policy and practice. These included:

  • (Re)integration and re-engagement

  • Access to learning

  • Importance of communication

  • Implications of policy and legislation changes (behaviour, SEND, and school exclusion)

  • The need for multi-agency working and contextual safeguarding

  • Preparing the school community

  • Flexibility and new ways of working

    Excluded Lives website:


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