Girls at higher risk of informal exclusion than boys, study shows

Girls are more likely to be informally excluded from schools in England than boys leaving them hidden from official statistics and missing out on vital support, new research shows.

Girls are more likely to move schools or leave before the end of Year 11, a new study shows. Picture: Adobe Stock
Girls are more likely to move schools or leave before the end of Year 11, a new study shows. Picture: Adobe Stock

While boys are more likely to be officially excluded from school, girls are more likely to be moved to a new school or leave before the end of Year 11, a study by not-for-profit group Social Finance into exclusions in Cheshire West and Chester shows.

On average, just over four per cent of boys are subject to “early exits” at schools within the council’s jurisdiction every year compared with just under six per cent of girls, the report shows.

It highlights concerns from professionals that students who are informally excluded miss out on vital support, including parental appeals, which those removed officially from schools are entitled to.

It also says there is no apparent explanation for this gender disparity despite three quarters of formal exclusions involving boys.

“Formal fixed term exclusions for girls are more likely to be recorded as due to “disruptive behaviour” (45 per cent) than boys (33 per cent). Whereas physical or verbal abuse account for 41 per cent of recorded fixed term exclusions for girls and 47 per cent for boys, failing to explain the difference in statistics,” the report states.

Girls and boys were also found to experience similar levels of persistent absence, another under reported form of exclusion cited in the study.

Sara Parsonage, associate director at Social Finance, said: “Nationally, we need to use data to look beyond only formal exclusions, otherwise we risk keeping girls ‘invisible’ in our data and in our responses. We cannot allow gender bias to prevent girls from getting the vital support they need.”

Pupils with experience of social care were also found to be at higher risk of all forms of exclusion compared to their peers, the study shows.

Those involved with children’s services were found to be four to five times more likely to be persistently absent from school.

Some 15 per cent of vulnerable children experienced 58 per cent of multiple fixed term exclusions, the report shows, while pupils with special education needs are eight times more likely to be permanently excluded.

Cheshire West and Chester Council commissioned the study following a spike in exclusions in 2017/18 to “really understand which pupils are most at risk and how we can better support them”.

However, the report warns the issues could indicate a national trend as schools prepare to reopen in September.

It shows that disadvantaged schools with high proportions of pupils with additional needs were found to be under increasing pressure pre-lockdown, with some excluding more than 10 per cent of pupils either formally or informally. 

The small number of high excluding schools, often in deprived areas, were a symptom of budgetary pressures and a lack of support for lower level needs, the analysis adds.

“We found that absenteeism increases around the time of an informal or formal exclusion and does not recover afterwards. This questions the usefulness of exclusion as a disciplinary measure for vulnerable children. We need to better understand the relationship between absenteeism and a child’s needs. This is hugely important in the context of Covid-19 as schools return.” said Parsonage.

A separate report, published by the National Youth Agency (NYA), reveals that more than 300,000 vulnerable young people are also missing from the radar of youth services.

It adds that there are more than one million young people with known needs that have been amplified by the pandemic and up to 500,000 young people known to be involved or vulnerable to gangs.

Gangs are also increasingly targeting vulnerable girls and young women, the NYA warns.

The NYA is calling for youth workers to be given “key worker status” in a bid to tackle increased absence from schools for vulnerable pupils as they return to classes in September.

Leigh Middleton, NYA chief executive, said: “Youth services must be enabled, empowered and up-skilled to do more to meet the immediate needs of vulnerable young people through the pandemic and the challenges from the global recession. 

“Government guidance needs to classify youth services as essential services and to mobilise youth workers as key workers.”

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