Following the Timpson Review and recent debate on schools’ use of exclusions, Whole Education’s Head of Programmes Rosie Leonard-Kane shares her perspective – and how an evidence-based model from British Columbia could help schools to meet the needs of all learners.
Exclusions: the reality
The reality in England is that if you are: a young person born into poverty; experiencing abuse or neglect at home; in care or interact with social services; have a learning difficulty; low attainment in school; are from particular minority ethnic groups; or suffer from a mental health condition, you are more likely to be excluded from school than your peers (IPPR, CSJ).
Academic outcomes for pupils educated in alternative provision are significantly below their peers. Only 1% of excluded pupils get 5 good GCSEs including English and Maths (RSA). The implications of this for future employment, integration into communities and likelihood of imprisonment are well documented.
Whole Education’s perspective
At Whole Education we are committed to supporting schools to provide a whole education for all young people. We welcome the recent focus on the issue of inappropriate exclusions in the sector – particularly in the Timpson Review of School Exclusions. We believe that the high rates of exclusion amongst pupils with SEND and experiencing disadvantage are unacceptable.
One of the Timpson Review’s recommendations was for the development of best practice guidance in ‘creating inclusive environments…especially for children from ethnic groups with higher rates of exclusion’.
WE have been inspired by the work in British Columbia to narrow the graduation gap for indigenous students. Last year indingeous students in BC celebrated their highest ever graduation rate (70%) – a huge achievement considering just 39% of indigenous students graduated in 2000.
So what has worked in British Columbia?
The education ministry news release praised their ‘improved, modern curriculum’, while the 2019 Cmolik Prize for contributions to public education was awarded to the Network for Inquiry and Indigenous Education (NOIIE).
NOIIE is a voluntary, inquiry-based network which was established in 2000. Over the past 20 years they have helped schools and districts to improve the quality and equity of education in BC through their Spirals of Enquiry framework.
This 6 stage spiral assists schools to take an enquiry-orientated, evidence based approach to learning and teaching. It is based on a research synthesis by a world-leading writer on professional learning which concludes that this kind of enquiry is the best way to improve teachers’ practice and learner outcomes (Timperley et al. 2008).
What learnings from NOIIE might be useful to help our learners at risk of exclusion?
A recent study into the impact of school leaders using NOIIE’s Spiral of Enquiry to improve transitions for indigenous learners found:
- Relationships matter most. Relationship building is the first, middle and last step in enquiry work.
- Inclusion, safety and belonging were the primary concerns for students, stemming from their life experiences.
- School leaders need to challenge their assumptions – listening deeply to learners is key.
A new perspective
We are in full agreement with the Timpson Review’s focus on ensuring ‘schools are clearly recognised for inclusive practice and using exclusion appropriately’.
We need to bring new perspectives to the discussion around exclusion – namely the voices of the students who are at risk of exclusion- and the 4 key scanning questions from NOIIE’s spiral of enquiry do just this.
+ What are you learning and why is it important?
+ How is it going with your learning?
+ What are your next steps?
Many young people at risk of exclusion have complex issues which cannot be solved with simple solutions. Complex challenges need adaptive expertise from educators who are responsive to the needs of their pupils, constantly seek new knowledge and understanding and actively seek alternative solutions. The spiral of enquiry challenges educators to reflect deeply on what they are doing to contribute to a situation as well as taking evidence-informed action.
We believe the spirals framework could be a good starting point for schools considering how they can support pupils at risk of exclusion. WE schools have been using the spiral for many years to improve relationships with students, increase engagement with the curriculum and deepen staff collaboration.
A whole education spirals of inquiry/exclusions pilot
The Education Select Committee’s investigation into school exclusions concluded:
We believe this is a powerful argument for an approach to inclusion guided by whole education principles – of a fully rounded education, focused on knowledge, skills and qualities, for all.
It is time to think and act differently so that we really do leave no child behind. That has to include student voice, new thinking and action from the adults around them and honest conversations about inclusion rather than exclusion in the English school system.
The committee’s investigation later argued ‘mainstream schools should be bastions of inclusion’. We are excited to rise to the challenge by launching a two year project in Autumn 2019 to support school teams in England to use the Spirals of Enquiry framework to transform outcomes for pupils at risk of exclusion.
If this is something you or your school might be interested in finding out more information about please get in touch.
You can contact Rosie here.