New ESRC grant will see first-time multi-disciplinary research conducted on consequences of school exclusions across the UK, led by the Department of Education at the University of Oxford. 

A team of researchers operating across Oxford, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Reading and the London School of Economics (LSE) will further research into the impact of UK school exclusion after the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) awarded a large grant. The four year project will be led by Professor Harry Daniels and Associate Professor Ian Thompson at the University of Oxford’s Department of Education and is due to commence on 2 October 2019.

The ESRC has awarded £2,550,850 to develop a multi-disciplinary understanding of the political economies and consequences of school exclusion across the UK. The research will lead to a greater understanding of the cost of exclusions at individual, institutional and system levels, as well as pupils’ rights, entitlements, protection and wellbeing, and the landscapes of exclusion across the UK’s four jurisdictions.

There are vast differences in the rates of permanent school exclusion in different parts of the UK with numbers rising rapidly in England but remaining relatively low or even falling in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Latest figures show there were 7,900 permanent exclusions in England compared to just five in Scotland, not accounting for many informal and illegal forms of exclusion.

In this research, home international comparisons of historical and current policy, practice and legal frameworks relating to school exclusion will be conducted for the first time.

Ian Thompson, Associate Professor of English Education at Oxford’s Department of Education and Co-Principal Investigator for the research commented:

“Exclusions have long and short-term consequences in terms of academic achievement, well-being, mental health, and future prospects. Previous research and official statistics show that school exclusions are also far more likely to affect pupils with special needs, from low income families, and some ethnic backgrounds.”

Preliminary work conducted by the research team, which first established in 2014, has illustrated that pressures on schools to perform well in examination league tables can lead to the exclusion of pupils whose predicted attainment would weaken overall school performance. As a consequence, pupils who do not conform to the rules can be excluded to the social margins of schooling.

“Exclusion is a process, rather than a single incident, that can only be fully understood when examined from multiple professional and disciplinary perspectives,” said Harry Daniels, Professor of Education at Oxford’s Department of Education and Consultant Principal Investigator for the work.

“Education policy has also largely ignored the work conducted by school and welfare professionals that attempts to address disruptive behaviour to prevent more serious incidents. This project therefore aims to highlight ways in which fairer and more productive outcomes can be achieved for pupils, their families, and professionals by comparing the ways in which policy and practice around exclusions differ in the four jurisdictions.”

The research is organised into three work strands: landscapes of exclusion; experiences of exclusion; and integration. The landscapes of exclusion strand examines the ways in which policies and legal frameworks shape interventions designed to prevent exclusions; the financial costs associated with exclusion; and patterns and characteristics of exclusion. The experiences of exclusion strand focuses on families’, pupils’ and professionals’ experiences of the risks and consequences of exclusion. The integration strand will integrate these findings to ensure that the learning is continuous as the research develops a coherent multi-disciplinary understanding of the political economies of exclusion.

These analyses will involve the cross cutting themes of: children’s rights, youth crime, values and the role of religion, geographical context, gender and ethnicity, social class, special needs and disability, and mental health.

Research team

University of Oxford 
Harry Daniels, Consultant Principal Investigator, Department of Education
Ian Thompson, Co-Principal Investigator, Associate Professor of English Education at the Department of Education
Jill Porter Consultant Co-Investigator, Department of Education
Hilary Emery, Consultant Co-Investigator, Department of Education
Rebecca Eynon, Co-Investigator, Associate Professor at the Department of Education and Oxford Internet Institute
Lucinda Ferguson, Co-Investigator, Associate Professor of Family Law at the Oxford Law Faculty
Rachel Condry, Co-Investigator, Professor of Criminology at the Centre for Criminology, Oxford Law Faculty
Mina Fazel, Co-Investigator, Associate Professor at the Department of Psychiatry
Alice Tawell, Research Officer at the Department of Education
Emily Murphy, Research Officer at the Department of Education
Joan Madia, Research Assistant at the Department of Education
David Griffiths, Project Manager at the Department of Education

Queen’s University Belfast
Laura Lundy, Co-Investigator, Co-Director of the Centre for Children's Rights
Tony Gallagher, Co-Investigator, Professor of Education at the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work
Gavin Duffy, Co-Investigator, Lecturer at the School of Social Sciences Education and Social Work
Gareth Robinson, Co-Investigator, Research Fellow at the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work

University of Edinburgh
Gillean McCluskey, Co-Investigator, Deputy Director of the Centre for Research in Education Inclusion and Diversity (CREID)
Ingrid Obsuth, Co-Investigator, Lecturer in Clinical Psychology at the School of Health in Social Science

University of Cardiff
Sally Power, Co-Investigator, Director of the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research Data and Methods (WISERD)
Chris Taylor, Co-Investigator, Co-Director of the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD)

London School of Economics
Eva-Maria Bonin, Co-Investigator, Assistant Professorial Research Fellow at the Care Policy and Evaluation Centre (CPEC)

About the University of Oxford Department of Education: Celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2019, the Department of Education started out as a department for training teachers, it is now also renowned for its research excellence. It was ranked first in the UK in the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF) and is the highest ranked UK education faculty in the 2019 Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings subject league. The department has many research collaborations within the social sciences division and of course the University more widely. Its research is outward-facing, with projects that are transformative not just for the research field, but for governments, charities, industry and all levels of the educational sector. The department also stays true to its origins and provides excellence in teacher education, having achieved the highest possible grades by the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) for six consecutive inspections and is recognised as an ‘outstanding’ provider.

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