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Ms Lucinda Ferguson of Oxford University's Faculty of Law will work with Oxfordshire County Council’s inclusion services to highlight the most efficient and effective moments and methods of local authority intervention in decision-making about exclusion from school.

Helping local authorities understand when and how to get involved in school exclusions

Image credit: Shutterstock

Exclusion from schools has many long-term negative consequences including mental health issues and involvement in the youth justice system.  This makes understanding how and when it should be used vital not just for children during their school years but also for their futures and society as a whole.  Ms Lucinda Ferguson, Associate Professor of Family Law in Oxford University’s Faculty of Law, will join Oxfordshire County Council’s inclusion services to collaborate with the practitioners who are best placed to make a positive difference to children at risk of permanent exclusion from school. 

Overall, permanent exclusion rates from English schools have been declining slowly, but the exclusion rate in England still vastly exceeds that in the rest of the UK. Moreover, despite the overall decline, exclusion from primary schools is on the rise.  There is also evidence of illegal exclusions and pupils ‘going missing’ from statutory schooling.  

Most critically, exclusion rates are inconsistent between English local authorities, creating an unjustifiable postcode lottery regarding the likelihood of any particular pupil being permanently excluded from school.

Many local authority inclusion services, including that of Oxfordshire County Council, work with schools and other decision-makers to secure better outcomes for children at risk of permanent exclusion.  But we still do not know how schools understand the law related to exclusion.  We also do not have a good understanding of how local authority inclusion services – schools’ principal source of advice and guidance on the law – affect decisions made by schools, governors, and independent review panels.  In this ESRC IAA-funded knowledge exchange fellowship, Ms Ferguson will work within Oxfordshire County Council’s Exclusion and Reintegration Team to better understand these issues.

They will also co-produce recommendations for reform, not just for Oxfordshire County Council, but also for other local authorities, government agencies, policy-makers, and third-sector organisations that work in school exclusion.  Together they hope to highlight the most efficient and effective moments and methods of local authority intervention in decision-making about exclusion to best balance the needs and rights of schools with those some of England’s most troubled children.

This project was funded by Oxford's ESRC Impact Acceleration Account.