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13 May 2013

'Excluding children is not the answer'

'Excluding children is not the answer'

Denying children access to education through exclusion can never be the right answer, according to Patrick Regan OBE.

Patrick, who leads Christian urban youth charity XLP, was speaking at their Tackling Educational Failure conference last week, hosted in collaboration with political think-tank the Centre for Social Justice.

The conference – held on 2 May in London – brought together teachers, policymakers, academy organisations, youth workers and young people to explore the root causes of educational failure, the staggering costs and tragic consequences of failing in education, and discuss how to reimagine an education system where exclusion is not needed.

Patrick said: "More than 5,000 young people were permanently excluded in 2010-11 and those are just the ones that we know about.

"Countless others are being illegally excluded according to reports by the Children's Commissioner and the Centre for Social Justice. Removing access to good education from a child has a devastating and often life-long negative impact upon a young person and their family, whether we call it exclusion, or referrals or part-time timetables or managed moves or dual registration.

"The time for simply gathering more and more data and talking around the issue needs to come to an end. It is now a time to decide what to do and do it. That's what this conference is about - how we can begin to see real and sustainable change start to happen?"

The conference heard that many young people who are excluded from school are sent to Pupil Referral Units (PRUs).

While PRUs can be an effective and helpful form of short-term intervention if done correctly, the reality is that all too often they are being used as a dumping ground by mainstream schools to take their 'difficult' students on a long-term or even permanent basis.

Phil Thain, chief executive of Future Skills Training based at Alliance member church St Mark's Battersea, which works with young people excluded or at risk of offending, or those not in education, employment or training.

"We seek to empower, support, care for and give hope to all the young people we encounter.

"I found the XLP conference really encouraging. The message of relationship being powerful and effective fits with our approach towards our young people."