Go to main content

Exploring the experiences of school exclusion for looked after children and young people

31 January 2020

Author: Juliette Thomson (UCL Institute of Education)

Statutory guidance from the Department for Education places a duty on local authorities in England to safeguard and promote the welfare and educational achievement of looked after children and young people (LACYP).

Accordingly, head teachers should, as far as possible, avoid excluding any LACYP.

Nonetheless, LACYP are five times more likely to have a fixed-period exclusion than their non-looked after peers (DfE, 2020).

LACYP currently lag behind their non-looked after peers on several educational outcome measures.

They are also more likely to experience homelessness, high unemployment and be involved with the criminal justice system.

Despite their detrimental effects, currently fixed-period exclusion rates for LACYP are rising year on year with no consensus on how best to prevent them.

To date, few recent studies have explored the school exclusion experiences of LACYP.

Using Bronfenbrenner’s (2005) bioecological systems framework, this study adopts a multi-informant approach to explore the experiences of school exclusion for LACYP from a range of perspectives.

Semi-structured interviews were used with eleven LACYP.

In addition, interviews were conducted with carers (5), a Special Educational Needs Coordinator, a Virtual School Head, and Educational Psychologists (10) to better understand the wider systemic factors leading to school exclusions.

The findings illustrated an overwhelmingly negative narrative from the LACYP associated with their school exclusions.

Key themes included: a lack of advocacy and not being listened to, a mismatch between young people and adult expectations/aspirations and that psychological containment, a sense of school belonging, and a positive sense of identity was not nurtured within their secondary schools.

Further negative consequences associated with school exclusions included poor mental health, involvement in drugs and crime as well as continued social and economic exclusion as care leavers.

Implications for policy and practice at a school, Local Authority (including Educational Psychology Services) and national level are discussed.


Top of page