For these eight pioneering schools, situated in deprived areas across London and with cohorts that include significant numbers of disruptive students, the challenge of how to tackle behaviour has always been immense.
Historically these schools punished and excluded pupils in high numbers — in some cases recording permanent exclusions over six times the UK average
But the realisation that punitive methods seldom work has led them to explore a trauma-informed approach of creating on-site inclusion units to nurture and reintegrate — rather than expel — disengaged students.
All they lacked for their vision was financial muscle. Until now. Following the Evening Standard’s Excluded initiative, each of the eight schools featured below have been given a grant of up to £150,000, payable over three years, to create and staff their own on-site inclusions unit. They are calling it “a paradigm shift” and “a game changer”.
All eight say that the need for targeted support for vulnerable pupils as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic has never been greater.
Collectively they expect to transform the trajectory of more than 1,000 students over three years who would otherwise be at risk of exclusion. That’s 1,000 fewer children at risk of being groomed by gangs while sitting at home or at the gates of alternative provision pupil referral units.
Launched in January with £1 million, funded equally by John Lyon’s Charity and tech philanthropist Martin Moshal, our fund attracted an unexpectedly high number of applications from 56 secondary schools. To be eligible, each school had to have higher exclusion rates than the national average — 10 per cent for fixed period exclusions (FPE) or 0.2 per cent for permanent exclusions (PE) — and had to be committed to reducing exclusions to a minimum.
Eleven schools were visited by JLC and The London Community Foundation, which managed the Moshal funds.
Of the schools evaluated by our panel, eight were invited to join our pilot programme, with the two funders each increasing their contributions by £100,000 — to £1.2 million in aggregate — to fully fund all eight.
For inspiration, some of the schools visited Dunraven High in Lambeth or Kensington Aldridge Academy below Grenfell Tower, whose inclusion units we profiled in the Standard, but each of the eight has developed their own approach.
Five schools start their inclusion units this term with three delayed to January because of Covid.
Can they succeed? With permanent exclusions in England up 60 per cent in five years and just one per cent of PRU pupils achieving good passes in GCSE English and maths — and a cost to the taxpayer of £20,000 per pupil— the eyes of the education sector are on them.
Rolls Yr 7-11 only excluding sixth forms
Exclusion data: 2018-19 unless stated
FPE rate is total fixed period exclusions divided by total number of pupils (x100)
Disadvantaged pupils measured by pupil premium
‘Let’s see what they can do with their lives’
Friern Barnet School, Barnet
New unit: Inclusion Hub
Exclusions: Fixed period exclusions 12%; permanent 0.4%
Disadvantaged pupils: 51%
Students to be helped over three years: 90
Friern Barnet School has struggled with a cohort of children who have low attainment and challenging behaviour, despite being rated good by Ofsted in 2019. Head Simon Horne wants to address the “correlation between children repeatedly excluded and poverty, mental health needs and exposure to domestic abuse”. He said: “These children are more at risk of permanent exclusion and now is the time to try a new approach. This Standard initiative is a catalyst to allow us to invest in a supportive rather than a punitive approach. Our inclusion hub will be a space on site with a capacity at any one time of 15. It will provide the mainstream curriculum, emotional support and art-based interventions such as dance, drama, music and art to help students re-engage. We want students to take the blinkers off and see what they can do with their lives.”
‘We are the one constant for many pupils’
Duke’s Aldridge Academy
New unit: School Within the School (SWS)
Exclusions 2019-20: FPE 17%; PE 0.4%
Disadvantaged pupils: 47%
Students to be helped: 128
At Duke’s Aldridge Academy, where 95 per cent of pupils are black or ethnic minority, principal Monica Duncan wants to drive down exclusions by adapting the School Within the School (SWS) model of their sister academy, Kensington Aldridge Academy. In 2019-20, they excluded pupils at twice the national average. The Standard grant will allow them to set up a SWS intervention programme to provide support for students at risk of disengaging. Ms Duncan said: “Our school sits within the top 10 per cent most deprived areas in England and for many pupils we are the one constant in their lives. This grant enables us to offer support on site for students struggling to build a positive attitude to learning. We will provide coping skills for difficulties happening at home or in school and a space for children to build their self-esteem.”
‘Start at Beacon High, finish at Beacon High’
Beacon High, Islington
New inclusion unit: Pathways
Exclusions: FPE 35%; PE 1.2%
Disadvantaged pupils: 65%
Students to be helped: 108
In 2018-19 this school had one of the lowest attainment and highest exclusion rates in London — with 177 fixed period exclusions, six permanent exclusions and 11 referrals to alternative provision. New head Alan Streeter gave it a new uniform, ethos and name — with Holloway School reopening as Beacon High in 2018-19.
They will use the Standard grant to start an on-site unit called Pathways. Its 12-week programme will provide academic and therapeutic support for up to 12 children a term at risk of permanent exclusion. Deputy head Andrea MacDonald said: “We have switched from punitive sanctions to a trauma-informed approach.
“Our aim is to halve fixed period exclusions and reduce permanent exclusions to zero over time. We want children who start at Beacon High to finish at Beacon High. This is a paradigm shift.”
‘We don’t need a generation of compliant girls’
Our Lady’s Catholic
High School, Hackney
New unit: Student Engagement Space
Exclusions: FPE 13%; PE 0.5%
Disadvantaged pupils: 48%
Students to be helped: 160
This all-girls faith school had permanent exclusions in 2018-19 of more than twice the national average and is using the Standard grant to set up a student engagement space (SES) to transform its approach. Deputy head Daniel Smith said: “In the past we used isolation booths, but we realised that three-quarters of the fixed-term exclusions handed out were to students who already frequented the booths, so a massive alarm bell rang that our system wasn’t working. The booths punish children but offer nothing more.
The new SES will work with students in small groups or one-to-one. SES students will access the normal curriculum. We think we can hugely reduce FPE and eradicate PE. We don’t need a generation of compliant girls; we need strong women empowered to take their place in society.”
‘This could be life-changing’
Hendon School, Barnet
New unit: Steps 2 Success
Exclusions: FPE 19%; PE 0.4%
Disadvantaged pupils: 47%
Students to be helped: 70
In 2018-19, Hendon School permanently excluded four students, twice the national average.
Assistant head Noelle Doona said: “We know that sanctions such as exclusions have limited impact. When we saw the Standard initiative, we recognised it could be life-changing for our students. We were inspired by Dunraven High’s inclusion unit as well as the approach taken by Glasgow. This grant means we can start our own nurture unit. We have called it Steps 2 Success and it’s an on-site space for up to 10 children at risk of exclusion to re-engage, raise attainment and get emotional support. We aim to cut permanent exclusions to zero but our system will take time to bed in. The grant allows us to transform our culture.”
‘Aim is zero permanent exclusions’
Kemnal Technology College, Bromley
New unit: Inclusion Centre
Exclusions: FPE 69%
Disadvantaged pupils: 44%
Students to be helped: 350
Kemnal got a new head last year who wants to cut exclusions by adopting a preventative rather than reactive approach. In its new inclusion centre students will be helped to address low self-esteem, emotional control and conflict resolution — with additional assistance provided by the charity Football Beyond Borders.
Assistant head Matthew Godden said: “The grant allows us to employ a dedicated member of staff whose job is to help us become a preventative school. Our aim is to get permanent exclusions to zero and fixed period exclusions to the national average of 10 per cent. We will intervene early, spot the warning signs and give them the help they need.”
Fitness and anger management
Phoenix Academy, Hammersmith & Fulham
New unit: Aspire in-school Alternative Provision
Exclusions: FPE 24%; PE 0%
Disadvantaged pupils: 44%
Students to be helped: 50
This was dubbed “the worst school in Britain” by the Daily Mail in the Nineties and rated “inadequate” in 2016. It suffered falling rolls to 60 per cent of capacity and high exclusions with eight students permanently excluded in 2017-18 — eight times the national average. A new team took over three years ago, improved their Ofsted to good and launched Aspire two years ago. Situated in two classrooms, Aspire has a capacity of 10 with pupils attending until they are ready to reintegrate — in most cases after six weeks. It provides the mainstream curriculum supplemented by Commando Joe fitness courses and anger management. Gary Aubin, director of special needs for the multi-academy parent trust, Future Academies, said: “The Standard grant allows us to sustain Aspire. Our new approach cut PE to zero in 2018-19 and reduced FPE from 600 to 98. We want to give students at risk of exclusion all the support they need.”
New dawn for school featured in Grange Hill
Kingsbury High School, Brent
New unit: Article 28 Project
Exclusions: FPE 13%; PE 0.2% (0.8% including all referrals to AP)
Disadvantaged pupils: 33%
Students to be helped: 130
Used as the setting for TV series Grange Hill, Kingsbury High serves a relatively deprived area. It sent disruptive pupils to alternative provision — but educational and behavioural outcomes in AP are very poor.
Last year they changed their policy to take a more therapeutic trauma-informed approach. Cresta Hurt, assistant head responsible for behaviour, said: “This grant gives us funds to implement our new approach. We have set up a bespoke unit called the Article 28 Project — named after the UN convention affirming every child’s right to an education — comprising two classrooms and a garden. Students will spend 80 per cent of time on academic work and the rest on mentoring, counselling and reflective work. Nothing like this has been tried at our school before. We are excited to have this opportunity.”