Campaigners call for temporary ban on exclusions

Fiona Simpson
Thursday, May 6, 2021

Campaigners are calling for a temporary ban on exclusions as children recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Campaigners say exclusions could further deepen inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic. Picture: Adobe Stock
Campaigners say exclusions could further deepen inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic. Picture: Adobe Stock

No More Exclusions (NME), a campaign group made up of teachers, school staff, professionals working with children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), social workers and youth workers among others, is urging government “to halt all forms of exclusion and exclusionary practice in schools urgently and with immediate effect”.

In its latest report School Exclusions During the Pandemic: Why We Need a Moratorium, NME states: “Exclusions ruin lives, and young people who are excluded during the pandemic are already likely to be facing extremely difficult circumstances.”

Research set out in the report, based on Freedom of Information requests submitted to 290 schools by the organisation, finds that across 32 secondary schools, 3,628 exclusions had been issued between September and mid-November 2020.

  • Should exclusions be banned for the rest of the academic year? Vote in CYP Now’s poll here.

This included at least four permanent exclusions and 728 fixed-term, the report states, adding that new reasons for exclusion have arisen since pupils’ return to school, "with at least 10 fixed-term exclusions given out in secondary schools for failure to follow Covid rules”.

Across 21 primary schools which responded to the request for data, 26 exclusions were issued within the first two months of returning to school, at least one of which was permanent, the report adds. 

It also details that of those children included in the sample who had been subject to exclusion 46 per cent of secondary school pupils and 45 per cent of primary school pupils were eligible for free school meals.

Meanwhile, of pupils whose characteristics data was submitted to NME, 44 per cent of excluded pupils were on the SEND register, however, at least 30 per cent did not have an education, health and care plan at the time of their exclusion. 

The report also adds that “significant disparities continue to exist when it comes to the ethnicity of excluded pupils”.

The research comes after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson wrote in the Telegraph that he would “back schools” in imposing “detentions, suspension or – as an absolute last resort – expulsion” on pupils “when faced with persistent bad behaviour” after months of closures due to lockdown.

Teaching unions and campaign groups have accused Williamson of “prioritising bad behaviour over children’s wellbeing”.

In a CYP Now blog, NME added that focussing on extreme punishments could “deepen existing inequalities”.

It states: “'Bad' behaviour doesn’t come from nowhere. It is often a reaction to problems happening in a child’s life, from issues ranging from anxiety and bereavement to hunger and poverty. 

“This was true in pre-pandemic times, but is especially salient now, as the pandemic continues to exacerbate these issues.”

In a separate blog, Dave Whitaker, director of learning for the Wellspring Academy Trust and author of The Kindness Principle, questions the need to “ban” exclusions, saying: “We should be creative and sophisticated enough to not need them.

“This is not about knowingly exposing teachers to violence and abuse, or excusing challenging and dangerous behaviour, but it is about reflecting on whether exclusions work and how we can ever justify giving up on a child and their future.”

The Department for Education has been contacted for comment.

  • Tonight (6 May) NME will host an online event presenting its recent research and putting forward its case for a moratorium on exclusions. To attend the event, which takes place between 6pm and 7pm, email

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