Demos want a re-think on how to deal with excluded pupils
Excluding badly behaved pupils from school should be abolished because it punishes vulnerable children, a report by a think tank says.
Demos says current exclusion rules, which hand difficult pupils over to local authorities, affect children with special educational needs.
It suggests the child should remain the responsibility of the school.
But the NASUWT teaching union said the report took "a rather simplistic view of a complex problem".
The report's author, Sonia Sodha, said the current system only moves problems "out of sight and out of mind".
The report, supported by the Private Equity Foundation, calls for difficult children to stay on the school register and be put on a tailored programme of support.
It says more than three times as much is spent per child on Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) than in mainstream schools. About £15,000 is spent on a full time PRU placement, compared with £4,000 for a place in mainstream secondary schools.
The study, based on statistical analysis and workshops, suggests exclusion also does not solve behavioural problems and is linked to very poor results.
It says government figures show 1% of 15 year olds in PRUs achieved five GCSEs at grades A*-C or equivalent; 11.3% achieved five or more grades A*-G; and 82.1% achieved one or more qualifications.
By comparison, 70% of pupils achieved five A*-C grades at GCSE or equivalent in the general school population.
Over 75% of children who are excluded have special educational needs (SEN) and exclusion rates for children in the middle band of SEN are 17 times higher for children without those particular needs.
Additionally, 27% of children with autism have been excluded from school.
The report makes several recommendations, which include:
• Abolishing the current system of permanent exclusion
• Giving more resources to schools to buy in out-of-school specialist provision for children with behavioural problems at an early stage
• The child should remain the responsibility of the school. Head teachers will still be able to buy in alternative provision for children behaving poorly - but they will remain accountable for their results
• More and better training for teachers on behavioural management in initial teacher training and in on-the-job training
• Local authorities need to play a stronger role in driving up the quality of alternative provision for children who struggle in the classroom
• Schools could spend extra resources to deal with the early signs of behavioural issues
Ms Sodha said other countries did not exclude children in the way the UK does.
'Destined to fail'
"These figures are shocking and show how badly we are failing to support vulnerable kids. Instead of helping these children we are punishing and then banishing them," she said.
"The system wastes money because it doesn't solve the problem - it just moves it out of sight and out of mind.
"It's crucial that the support stays connected to the school because once kids are excluded they are almost destined to fail."
But Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, accused the think tank of not fully costing its proposals and effectively "signing a blank cheque on the issue".
She added: "It is premised on a belief that children and young people are lost to the system when they are excluded.
"There is no evidence for this. If it does occur, then the local authority would not be fulfilling its legal duty to provide full-time education.
"Nothing in the report warrants a conclusion that permanent exclusion should be abolished."
Ms Keates also said many of the proposals suggested in the report - such as using nurture groups and learning mentors - are already used in schools.