Some of the most vulnerable pupils in society are being cast to our peripheral vision where their life prospects lie hostage to fortune.
The most likely outcome for many is a grim concoction of economic insecurity, disengagement, and personal turmoil. Just 1.1 per cent of pupils who complete their GCSEs in alternative provision (AP) achieve five good GCSE passes; almost half of pupils in AP do not progress to a sustained destination; and 58 per cent of young adults in prison were permanently excluded at school.
Learning difficulties, crumbling home environments, disabilities, personal trauma, turbulent emotional challenges, caring responsibilities; these are all part of the broad sweep of circumstances that pupils in AP might typically experience. Pupils with special educational needs are over six times more likely to be permanently excluded from school, while 41 per cent of pupils who use state-maintained AP claim free school meals and 77 per cent have special educational needs.
These learners’ poor outcomes are very often the culmination of years of complex and unresolved personal challenges – both in and out of school – and a lack of early, effective intervention. And by the time pupils leave mainstream education they are often already struggling. These outcomes must, therefore, be read in context and if we are to redress them, we must look at the system as a whole.
That system is not working. Our analysis raises serious questions about the nature of some exclusions and the support that exists beyond.