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Reducing School Exclusions

School exclusion rates have risen by 40% in the last three years[1]. A large increase in numbers of children with complex needs, and the increased propensity of schools to exclude children - due the impact of funding cuts and staff pressures on their ability to support behavioural interventions without resorting to exclusions – are driving the upswing.

Once children are excluded, a snowball effect exacerbates poor mental health and ensures they are far more likely to face further social exclusion and negative life trajectories. The quality of education on offer in alternative provision often does not provide an opportunity to mitigate behavioural difficulties. After exclusion, a child is twice as likely to be taught by an unqualified teacher, and staff shortages in alternative provision schools are particularly acute[2].

Alternative provision was designed as a positive intervention designed to support children with complex needs and vulnerabilities, enabling them to return to mainstream schooling where possible. But the evidence today paints a different picture, showing that alternative provision is increasingly a first resort and final destination for children deemed unable to achieve, a move which often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Researchers have also found evidence of a two-way relationship between childhood mental illness and school exclusion[3], meaning exclusion further exacerbates mental illness. Excluded children are 10 times more likely to suffer from recognised mental health problems than those in mainstream schools[4]. IPPR estimates that the proportion of excluded children with recognised mental health problems is likely to be close to 100%.

At nurtureuk we know from our own work that the majority of children accessing nurture groups were shown to have experienced significant trauma.  These included separation from family, exposure to family conflict, abuse, divorce, a new home or school, illness and hospitalisation, death of a loved one, parental substance abuse exposure and maternal depression – 19% of students in primary school nurture groups and 42% in secondary school nurture groups have a diagnosed psychiatric disorder, most commonly ADHD[5].

Nurtureuk is working to end permanent exclusions in the UK through universal access to nurturing interventions for all pupils through our #AspireNotToExclude campaign. Nurture groups enable children with complex needs to develop social and emotional skills, build resilience, and form healthy attachments, helping them re-integrate with their classroom. Nurtureuk empowers teachers to develop the correct interventions for their pupils through the Boxall Profile, a teacher-led assessment of the social emotional and behavioural difficulties of pupils. One Deputy Head has described the impact of nurturing interventions saying:

“Overall, since the first year the nurture group began we have reduced exclusions in our school by 84%.  In 2017 we enrolled on the National Nurturing Schools Programme and as a result, from the start of this current academic year, we have achieved 3 out of 4 terms with no exclusions at all”

(Sarah Beaumont, Assistant Headteacher and SENCO, Landsdowne Primary School)

We want all children to have access to nurturing interventions to enable them to access education, and for all schools to #AspireNotToExclude.  For more information on nurture or on our #AspireNotToExclude campaign please contact


Kevin Kibble, CEO of nurtureuk, will be discussing Mental health in Schools – How can we ensure Pupil Wellbeing? on the Hot Seat at 10:00am





[1] House of Commons Education Committee, Forgotten Children: alternative provision and the scandal of ever-increasing exclusions, July 2018,

[2] IPPR, Making the Difference, October 2017,

[3] Claire Parker, Ruth Marlow, Marc Kastner, Felix May, Oana Mitrofan, William Henley, Tamsin Ford, (2016) "The “Supporting Kids, Avoiding Problems” (SKIP) study: relationships between school exclusion, psychopathology, development and attainment – a case control study"Journal of Children's Services, Vol. 11 Issue: 2,pp.91-110

[4] IPPR, Making the Difference, October 2017,

[5] Scott Loinaz, E., (2014), ‘Pilot study summary’. Available at: