What can be learned from pupils and staff in Key Stage 3 & 4 Pupil Referral Units about processes leading to permanent exclusion? Opportunities for improving practice

Prof Doc Thesis


Blanchard, J. 2023. What can be learned from pupils and staff in Key Stage 3 & 4 Pupil Referral Units about processes leading to permanent exclusion? Opportunities for improving practice. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.8x12z
AuthorsBlanchard, J.
TypeProf Doc Thesis
Abstract

It is well-documented that permanent exclusion from school can have several adverse consequences. Government statistics show that permanent exclusion disproportionately affects disadvantaged and vulnerable students, particularly those with special educational needs, thus exacerbating educational inequalities. Furthermore, the cycle of disadvantage is perpetuated by the negative onward trajectory for excluded pupils, such as reduced educational attainment and increased likelihood of engaging in criminal activities.

Additionally, the lack of effective alternatives to exclusion and inconsistencies in decision-making processes in schools contribute to the wider issue. The systemic complexities and emotional toll on students and families, coupled with the long-term societal costs, underline the urgent need for comprehensive reform in the way permanent exclusion is addressed within the education system.

This study explored the critical insights that can be gained from the perspectives, views and experiences of both students and staff members in Key Stage 3 and 4 Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) and begins by examining the national context and acknowledging the often-negative outcomes associated with permanent exclusion from mainstream educational settings. A systematic literature review identified a gap in the research focussing on pupils’ and PRU staff’s retrospective views, thus, prompting an examination of the experiences of permanently excluded students who have been placed in PRUs. The study also aimed to add to an existing body of literature supporting the need for changes to permanent exclusion processes.

A qualitative research design was utilised. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven members of staff and five secondary-aged pupils within two pupil referral units from one local authority. The study investigated the lived experiences of pupils and the views of dedicated PRU staff who have developed deep insights into the processes and impact of permanent exclusion from mainstream school. The epistemological underpinning of this study lies within social constructivism and aligns with a critical realist ontology. Thematic analysis identifies several key findings, including the paramount importance of relationships within educational environments, the significance of effective communication, and the necessity for early identification of special needs among students. Additionally, the research considered the effectiveness of punitive measures and zero tolerance policies in addressing the issue of weapons carrying among these often-vulnerable students.

By integrating these insights, this study seeks to contribute to the ongoing discourse surrounding the processes of permanent exclusions and consider opportunities for improving practice.

KeywordsPermanent Exclusion; Pupil Referral Units; Secondary-aged Exclusion; School Exclusion; Educational Psychology
Year2023
PublisherUniversity of East London
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.8x12z
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Publication dates
Online10 Jan 2024
Publication process dates
Completed19 Dec 2023
Deposited10 Jan 2024
Copyright holder© 2023, The Author
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