Who is excluded?

Empirical research and government data collections in the UK tell us that students designated as marginalised/excluded do share certain social characteristics:

  • Boys are far more likely to be formally excluded than girls (Institute of Education (University of London) and the National Foundation for Educational Research ( NFER), 2013; McCluskey, Lloyd, Riddell, & Fordyce, 2013). Recent Scottish data for exclusions puts excluded boys at 6.8% of the total school population with excluded girls at 1.8% (PINS Scotland, 2012). However girls are often over-represented in data of those missing from school without adequate explanation (Osler & Vincent, 2003; Stanley & Arora, 1998).
  • Those who are formally excluded are more likely to be living in poverty (Institute of Education (University of London) and the National Foundation for Educational Research ( NFER), 2013; Parsons, 2011; PINS Scotland, 2012).
  • BME young people are excluded in the middle years of schooling, but in the past many have also tended to be informally ‘written off’ by some schools (Wright, Standen, John, German, & Patel, 2005).
  • Behaviour and absences of traveller and Roma young people are often not followed up and truancy can be brushed off as ‘cultural’ inevitabilities (Danaher, Kenny, & Leder, 2012; Derrington & Kendall, 2004).
  • Exclusion is generally, but not always, associated with lower levels of formal educational attainment. In Scotland, the exclusion rate is four times higher for those who have an additional support need (PINS Scotland, 2012), while in Wales pupils with special educational needs accounted for just over half of all exclusions in 2011/2012 (McCluskey, et al., 2013). There are, however, very academically proficient young people in the ranks of those in alternative provision (Thomson & Russell, 2007).
  • Some students are disengaged from school, rather than formally excluded. As Ross (2009) points out, disengagement from schooling does not mean disengagement from education. The ‘disengaged’ group is said to be more likely to be Black Caribbean and young people of mixed race.

The social characteristics appearing in this data do suggest that there may well be a complex combination of social, individual and systemic educational processes at work in the production of ‘at risk-ness’. The data thus supports a view that simple and quick responses are unlikely to be an ‘answer’.

Whether exclusion data matches the actual enrolments in alternative education provision is another matter altogether, and will be discussed in a later post.


Danaher, P. A., Kenny, M., & Leder, J. R. (Eds.). (2012). Traveller, nomadic and migrant education. London: Routledge.

Derrington, C., & Kendall, S. (2004). Gypsy traveller students in secondary schools: Culture, identity and achievement. Stoke on Trent: Trentham.

Institute of Education (University of London) and the National Foundation for Educational Research ( NFER). (2013). Evaluation of the school exclusion trial (responsibility for alternative provision for permanently excluded children). http://www.education.gov.uk/researchandstatistics/research: Department for Education.

McCluskey, G., Lloyd, G., Riddell, S., & Fordyce, M. (2013). Evaluation of education provision for children and young people educated outside the school setting. Cardiff: Welsh Government.

Osler, A., & Vincent, K. (2003). Girls and exclusion. London: Routledge.

Parsons, C. (2011). Strategic alternatives to exclusion from school (2nd ed.). Stoke: Trentham Books.

PINS Scotland. (2012). Exclusions in Scotland’s schools. One year on, where are we now? http://www.pinscotland.org.uk: PINS Scotland.

Ross, A. (2009). Disengagement from education among 14-16 year olds. London: National Centre for Social Research.

Stanley, L., & Arora, T. (1998). Social exclusion amongst adolescent girls: their self-esteem and coping strategies. Educational Psychology in Practice, 14(2), 94-100.

Thomson, P., & Russell, L. (2007). Mapping the provision of alternatives to school exclusion. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Wright, C., Standen, P., John, G., German, G., & Patel, T. (2005). School exclusion and transition into adulthood in African-Caribbean communities. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.


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