Included, engaged and involved part 2: preventing and managing school exclusions

Part two of guidance document 'Included, Engaged and Involved', which refreshes the national policy on school exclusions.

Section 5 - The Impact of Exclusion on Children and Young People

It is important that schools and education authorities are aware of the impact that exclusion can have, particularly within those groups of children where exclusions are more prevalent: those with an assessed or declared disability; looked after children and young people; children and young people from the most deprived areas; and those with an additional support need (particularly if that support need is social, emotional and/or behavioural). Having an understanding of the evidence that highlights the impact that exclusion can have will support informed decision-making about the appropriateness of an exclusion; but will also recognise that exclusion when used in a proportionate and supportive way can have a positive outcome for the child or young person and the wider school community.

Links between exclusion and attainment

The following findings are from Scottish Government figures that look at the attainment of S4/S5 and S6 pupils in the year 2012/13:

  • 5.7% of pupils who had been excluded in that school year, achieved Level 6 or above in terms of qualifications, whilst 57.7% of pupils who had no exclusions, achieved Level 6 or above;
  • 4.5% of pupils who had been excluded in that school year went on to achieve no qualifications, whilst only 1.3% of pupils who had not been excluded in that school year, went on to achieve no qualifications; and
  • 11.1% of pupils who had 5 exclusions gained no qualifications, compared with 3.4% of pupils who had 1 exclusion.

It is recognised that other factors may also contribute to the future outcomes of children and young people, including socioeconomic factors and additional support needs.

The cost of exclusion can be seen here in terms of wellbeing, attainment and later offending behaviour, with recognition that the negative impact of exclusion is cumulative. Children and young people can often become involved in a negative cycle of exclusion and non-attendance which are very likely to reduce social capital and significantly impact on later life chances.

Research on the links between exclusion and anti-social/offending behaviour

  • In a cohort of 4000 young people who started secondary education in 1998, one of the most important predictors of criminal record status was found to be school exclusion by the third year of secondary education. (Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime 2012) [19] ;
  • A study of the pathways leading to offending of 125 young people in Polmont Young Offenders Institution found that at least 80% of the young people had been excluded from school. (Smith, Dyer and Connelly 2014) [20] ; and
  • The overarching risk associated with children and young people permanently excluded from school was found to be social exclusion with associated risks including anti-social behaviour, crime, drug taking and suicide. (Rabie and Howard, 2013) [21] . Exclusion can be the first step to a life of social exclusion and addictions. (Sutherland, Monro and Wood, 2012).

Based in part on the findings of such studies, the current approach to Youth Justice and preventing offending by young people in Scotland is based on prevention and early intervention with a focus on providing appropriate support to divert young people from offending, thereby minimising re-victimisation and improving their life chances and outcomes. The study in Polmont also emphasised a focus on promoting creative and individualised tailored approaches to learning for this group of young people, with a focus on a nurturing and supportive ethos.

Key messages on the potential impact of exclusion

  • Exclusion can increase children and young people's already high levels of shame and fear. (Taransaud, 2011);
  • The additional impermanency that exclusion can bring to children and young people, i.e. the loss and rupture of the relationships that the children and young people have formed in schools, can often exacerbate the negative consequences that earlier traumas have had on their lives. (Perry, 2011);
  • School connectedness and relationships are seen as vital in leading to a number of positive outcomes for children and young people. (Learner and Kruger 1997; Commodari 2013; and Bergen and Bergen 2008). School exclusion is likely to have a negative impact on such relationships; and
  • Excluding young people from the stable routines of school and leaving them in a chaotic home background or risky neighbourhood can worsen behaviour. (Barnardo's, 2010).


Email: Douglas Forrester

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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