At one end of the School to Prison Pipeline is the student. A young person whose life has been turned upside down. At the other are the people making the laws for our education system: the elected government and its civil servants. So, in the latest in the School to Prison Pipeline series, we want to look at what the government is doing to change things.
The Government’s Timpson Review
In May 2019, the government commissioned a report called the Timpson Review of School Exclusion . It was led by the Conservative MP Edward Timpson. His job was to look at how and why exclusions are being used in UK schools. In short, Timpson’s report felt that exclusion was still an ‘important tool’ for headteachers. But he found four key problems:
- Different schools take different approaches to exclusion.
- Schools don’t always feel equipped to deal with difficult students.
- Schools are not always rewarded for keeping such students.
- There is a lack of protection for some students from ‘informal exclusion’, meaning they are often left out of education altogether.
To tackle these issues, the Timpson Review came up with 30 ideas to improve the use of exclusions and alternative provisions (i.e., pupil referral units (PRU)). These included new guidance for schools, extra funding, and better information sharing between schools and social services.
So how is the government doing?
Two years on and last month the review was again debated in Parliament . The government said it was ‘taking forward the vast majority’ of the review’s ideas. They also pointed to the £3 billion education recovery package, of which £1.7 billion is extra money for schools and alternative providers.
However, the website IntegratED has been tracking the work the government has been doing. So far, only six of the 30 have been completed. Another 12 have had some progress, while the rest appear to have had no action taken . Even Edward Timpson himself said in Parliament that while the ‘will is still there in Government’, he was ‘realistic’ on its progress, noting the pandemic as partly slowing things down.
A long way to go
It is perhaps the last of the four problems identified by the Timpson Review that is the most worrying. The review found that some students are being moved out of schools illegally, and with no one checking where they end up. To use an old saying, these young people are falling through the net.
One of the suggestions of the review was a rule change to make schools tell a child’s social worker when they have been moved out of a school. Seems a simple solution. To those outside of the system it might even seem hard to believe it doesn’t already happen. According to IntegratED’s tracker, this idea is still being worked on, but for those young people trapped in the spiral of exclusion toward prison, these changes must seem too slow.
A focus on the person not the behaviour
In October last year, we published a blog from a former student (If I could go back in time). He was excluded and ended up in a PRU. His story reads like a series of missed opportunities. One in which the system did not spot or address the causes of his behaviour.
And here in lies the biggest problem. The system is disjointed and focusses on removing the behaviour rather than fixing the underlying problems. Our Switch Ambassador Programme aims to help students’ switch their behaviour, choices and attitudes. But the education system, and those who make it work (government, councils, schools, and social services) all need to focus on the things around young people that lead to problem behaviour. Whether this is at home, school, or in the society surrounding them.
What can you do?
Government’s often respond to pressure, so get writing to your local MP. You can use the Parliament website to find out who that is. Ask your MP to push the government on its progress on the Timpson Review recommendations.
Timpson Review of School Exclusion, Department of Education, May 2019 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/807862/Timpson_review.pdf
 IntegratED website, https://www.integrated.org.uk/what-needs-to-change/timpson-tracker/