The autumn of 2017 was notable for two news events: in October the Prime Minister announced the intention to launch a review of school exclusion whilst in November Meghan Markle became engaged to Prince Harry.
Between autumn 2017 and Spring 2019, Meghan Markle was baptised into the Church of England, became a British citizen, got married, got pregnant and had a baby.
In the same timeframe, Edward Timpson wrote his review of school exclusions (cue smart-arse commentary about women’s ability to multi-task).
The review – more anticipated (by some!) than a royal baby – is extensive. Running to a 128-pages, it is thorough and includes no fewer than 30 recommendations. But how do these stack up?
In response to Timpson’s call for evidence in 2018, DYT made 7 recommendations, many of which are met by the final report. For example, we called for ‘prevention rather than reaction’ to be prioritised – a clear theme in the report. We also called for data on exclusions and excluded pupils to be collected and collated by government – a feature of at least three of the recommendations.
There are also recommendations that have been included that whilst we didn’t mention directly in our submission we strongly welcome such as strengthening governing bodies oversight of this area (see our SEND Governance Review Guide for some best practice examples in this area) and the promotion of the role of AP in supporting mainstream and special schools to deliver effective intervention (another area where DYT is leading the way, through our partnership with Aspire AP to deliver Drive for Literacy across Buckinghamshire).
However, we are concerned that Edward Timpson and his reference group did not see the link between literacy and exclusions. Whilst Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) are rightly covered in the report, more general literacy needs are not. There is a significant risk that without being able to read, you face barriers to accessing the curriculum. The result can often be poor behaviour and truancy. Research has linked reading difficulties to externalising behaviours, such as classroom discipline problems, bullying, and aggression.
Like the new royal baby, the birth of the report is the beginning not the end of the matter. The detail of many of the recommendations still need to be worked out, for example the DfE will need to consult on how to ensure schools are responsible for the children they exclude and remain accountable for their educational outcomes.
And like the royal baby, the fact that the Timpson Report exists will soon become old news; what is done as a result will be the important issue.