Transforming outcomes for children at risk of exclusion
School exclusion is not simply an educational matter, but a complex systemic issue that goes beyond education and disproportionately affects a small cohort of vulnerable pupils. Many pupils experience exclusion in multiple ways during their school life. This goes beyond formal permanent exclusions and suspensions, which currently dominate policy and the media narrative, to include persistent absence, managed moves, school moves, and ‘early exits’.
Social Finance is bringing a local-systems perspective to support earlier intervention for children and young people at risk of exclusion.
Why we are doing this
- Children and young people living in high levels of deprivation are twice as likely to receive multiple exclusions and are at greater risk of all types of exclusion (we use a comprehensive definition of exclusion to include a variety of ways that pupils may be removed from mainstream education).
- At-risk children have multiple needs below thresholds for schools to access additional support; the funding system fails to meet the realities of the lives of these children.
- The extent of exclusion from school is greater than headline statistics suggest, with gendered implications.
Figures from the autumn term 2021/22 reveal an increase in permanent exclusions and suspensions compared to the previous autumn term. Despite exclusion rates being lower than pre-pandemic levels, the long-term impact of Covid-19 restrictions are still unknown.
There is a small cohort of those with contact with social care and / or SEMH needs who represent just 15% of pupils yet account for 58% of multiple suspensions. There is a ‘cliff-edge’ group who may not meet any singular threshold for additional support and are at higher risk of exclusion since the pandemic that our programme is seeking to help.
What we are doing
Our vision is for an inclusive, coordinated and proactive system. A system that maximises access to education will enable:
Children and young people, regardless of their needs, feel they belong and can prosper.
Parents / carers can access the right support for their child when they need it, as early as possible, to keep them within mainstream schooling when that is the right place for them.
Teachers and schools can create inclusive learning environments by getting support from the wider system for pupils who need it to relieve pressure.
The local system incentivises and enables stakeholders to work together to provide children, parents / carers and schools with effective holistic support.
Working in partnership with Cheshire West and Chester Council and Gloucestershire County Council, we are:
- Building infrastructure across local systems that enables multi-agency working.
- Creating local, evidence-based marketplaces for preventative and reactive interventions.
- Using data analysis to understand who is at risk of exclusion and how the impact of Covid-19 is being felt by vulnerable children.
Our programme brings additional capacity into the local system to relieve pressure from schools and teachers and to coordinate the local support offer. We have built partnerships with Cheshire West & Chester Council and Gloucestershire County Council, who are both thinking innovatively about addressing rising school exclusions. In Cheshire West and Chester we are working with Power2, a charity working with children and young people to improve wellbeing and school engagement.
At Power2 we’re firm believers in the importance of early intervention to help improve children and young people’s life chances, and we’re delighted to be partnering with Social Finance and Cheshire West and Cheshire Council in this vital work.
Julie Randles, Chief Executive, Power 2
In response to findings through in-depth evidence gathering, data analysis and co-production with children and young people, we are piloting our RootED early intervention model, which includes three key interconnected functions:
- Support for children and young people.
- Multi-agency decision making.
- Online directory of services.
Social Finance is bringing the model to life in our partner local authorities, approaching the implementation of the pilot in distinct ways that best fit the needs of each local area. We will be engaging with an evaluation partner to create a robust plan for evaluation and shared learning across place-based pilot areas.
In Cheshire West and Chester, Power2 was appointed local delivery partner and is working alongside Social Finance and the local authority to deliver the pilot. This appointment follows a rigorous commissioning process that involved a wide range of stakeholders, reflecting the co-produced nature of the entire programme. Over the course of the pilot, we will continue to engage with a wide group of local stakeholders and children and young people to ensure that their voices remain at the centre of this work and inform it going forward.
In Gloucestershire, we are engaging with education professionals, non-statutory service providers and statutory advisory services as part of the Alpha phase of the Directory of What Works. We are testing our hypotheses and user needs to understand how to make it easier for teachers to access the right information on services for children and young people at risk of exclusion.
While the initial pilot implementation is focused in specific areas within the partner local authorities, we are looking to scale the model to other parts of the local system. Over the course of the pilot, the team will be focusing on gathering the required evidence to make the case for this.
In parallel to the local pilot delivery, we are engaging with key stakeholders at the national level to ensure on-the-ground practice and evidence feeds back up to national decision makers and across to others working in the sector.