Let’s find practical solutions to the problem of of school exclusions - Lynne Bell

Lynn Bell is CEO of LOVE Learning, a member of the Scottish Children’s Services CoalitionLynn Bell is CEO of LOVE Learning, a member of the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition
Lynn Bell is CEO of LOVE Learning, a member of the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition
I created an organisation at LOVE Learning to bridge the gap between social care and education. This was done out of frustration at a lack of services for young people I worked with and to find a solution to this challenge.

There are many young people who are excluded from education due to a family crisis, social and emotional behaviours, a disability or other additional support needs (ASN). There are many restrictions for people with ASN, and often schools have large classes or are not resourced for children who are mainstreaming with such needs. As a result, children with ASN are five times more likely to have a school exclusion. Scottish Government statistics data stated “having an ASN also increases the likelihood of exclusion. The rate of exclusion for pupils with and ASN was 49.3 exclusions per 1000 pupils. This is almost five times the rate for pupils without an additional support need”.

Children who live in poverty are adversely affected by school exclusions. Living in an area with relatively more deprivation is also associated with a higher exclusion rate. Rates of exclusion per 1000 pupils are more than four times greater for pupils living in the 20 per cent of areas associated with most deprivation, compared with pupils living in the 20 per cent associated with the least deprivation, as defined by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SMID). Children in such areas are also more likely to suffer from mental health issues.

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These stark figures highlight the need for services that can adapt to the needs of the child. Education that can be delivered holistically, within the community or family home, delivered by staff who are trained to engage and support children and families regardless of behaviour or disability. However, there are often gaps in services themselves; bureaucracy, grey areas with compliance and a lack of budget to provide services exactly where they are needed.

I welcome that the Scottish Government is acknowledging and trying to address the issues of budgets and dedicating services to support our children and young people. An example of this is a desire to close the attainment gap with funding such as that provided by Pupil Equity Funding (PEF). This fund is awarded to schools to raise attainment for children living in poverty. However, there are still gaps as PEF funding is allocated to the school.

Children who are excluded need social care after the school gates close to engage them back to learning. Many schools are however not prepared to spend budgets on services that are delivered during holidays, evenings or weekends when they need it most. Engaging children away from school is also sometimes the only option to learning, but budgets will be spent on where it impacts on the school timetable and not necessarily on the holistic needs of a child.

We must invest in our children and do more to act to bridge these gaps, finding solutions to school exclusion. Organisations must also work together, adapting and overcoming any obstacles that prevents our children learning.

Evidence shows that learning and inclusion during childhood improves mental wellbeing, confidence and overall resilience, creating happy and healthy adults for our future society. Embracing practical solutions to creatively engaging children and young people within our communities must be the utmost priority.

Lynne Bell, CEO, LOVE Learning



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