Exclusion statistics 2020/21

The Summary Statistics For Schools In Scotland 2021 have been released, with the more detailed stats being available as of March 2022. These statistics are based on the annual pupil census (conducted in September 2021) and the attendance, absence and exclusion returns for the 2020 to 2021 school year. As always, I am particularly interested in the exclusion statistics.

As you may be aware, exclusion statistics are collected only every other year, so the previous data is from 2018/19. Since then there has been a 44% drop in the number of exclusions – with education authorities noting that Covid-19 related school closures as a reason for this reduction.

In the whole of Scotland, for the last academic year, only one pupil was permanently excluded from a (local authority) school – referred to in the statistics as being “Removed from register”. I am not convinced that this is accurate. My (admittedly anecdotal) impression is that education authorities are taking a leaf out of the independent schools’ playbook and finding other, less formal ways of removing pupils from their schools. One case I dealt with earlier this year involved the education authority insisting that they had not excluded my client, they had merely decided to move all her learning opportunities outwith the school building!

Boys are more than three times more likely to be excluded than girls. Depressingly, pupils with additional support needs are almost five times more likely to be excluded, and pupils living in areas most associated with deprivation are four times more likely to be excluded than those in the least deprived areas. The summary statistics don’t specifically highlight the figures for looked after children, but these have not historically been a pretty picture – despite recent commitments to end the practice.

It remains the case then, that exclusion – which is known to have long-term damaging effects, and which is not effective as a management tool – is disproportionately targeted on our most vulnerable pupils. Disabled pupils facing exclusion have an effective remedy available in the Health and Education Chamber Tribunal, which has found more than one education authority to be systemically discriminating against disabled pupils in their exclusion policies and procedures. However, looked after children, and those from deprived areas have to make do with the largely ineffective education appeal committee appeals process.