Last Updated: Thursday, June 27, 2019

Educational exclusion and inclusion - common themes from the Improving Life Chances Implementation Group

What is this?

​This practice exemplar will support practitioners working with young people who may be at risk of exclusion.

The exemplar has been produced by the Improving Life Chances Implementation Group on behalf of the Youth Justice Improvement Board.

Members of the Implementation Group shared examples of young people who were experiencing (or at risk of) exclusion from education to illustrate themes and factors which have led to children and young people being successfully included in school. These have been developed into short case studies which draw on the voice and experiences of young people.

The case studies show that school exclusion is often just one of a number of factors experienced by these young people.

Who is this for?

​This exemplar will be useful to all practitioners working with young people. For example, teachers, learning support staff, community learning and development practitioners, youth workers and third sector staff who work with young people within the school, community, home or residential setting.

How to use this exemplar to improve practice

This exemplar along with the reflective questions invite you to consider the impact of your own approaches as well as increase your understanding of the experiences that young men and women have had of exclusion in order to prevent:

  • The impact of moving from primary school, where ‘someone really knew me’ to secondary school, where it was difficult to form relationships with a large number of new adults whose expectations and styles of interacting were often very different;
  • The powerful effect of peers, especially the influence of older young people while excluded, and the sometimes rapid escalation of substance abuse, violence and offending;
  • Broken connections with school but also with out-of-school activities and the role models and pro-social pastimes such as football which that wider community can provide.

Improvement questions

  • How effectively do we build relationships with a child or young person?
  • How well do we look beyond the child’s behaviour to their needs, seeking to understand the distress often experienced by our children on a daily basis?
  • How well do we recognise and plan for transition between primary and secondary school for vulnerable young people? How effective are we at recognising and planning for the children and young people that find it very difficult to engage with traditional school provision?
  • Do practitioners adopt a holistic approach when working with the child and family? How well do we identify challenges and possible barriers to success through a multidisciplinary approach? Do we engage in shared professional learning opportunities with partners?


PDF file: Educational exclusion and inclusion (335 KB)

Explore the exemplar

What was done?

Members of the implementation group worked with partners, such as Includem, the Good Shepherd Centre, Barnardo’s, Up-2-Us and the Scottish Prison Service to gather young people’s experience of educational exclusion and inclusion. These were then developed into case studies to reflect emerging themes and factors.

Why was it done?

More than 70% of young people in Her Majesty’s Prison, Young Offenders Institution Polmont say that they enjoyed school some or all of the time, but many had not engaged fully in schooling from very early in their secondary school career, whether through truanting or exclusion. After exclusion, very few of the young men and women report having made a successful return to their mainstream secondary school. When things had been going better for them in school, they mention that they had been learning about things that they found interesting (including projects), the value of praise and ‘treats’ such as outings, and above all relationships: ‘a teacher who knew me’: ‘some teachers were brand new – they understood me, didnae shout at me’.

Increasingly, schools are working with children and young people to prevent exclusion. The case studies describe how schools have worked with young people, their families and partners to achieve successful and wide ranging outcomes.

What was the impact?

How can school inclusion be promoted and what is the impact of this?

Across the case studies, positive benefits were identified. They include:

  • increased attendance and hope of continuing into further education
  • improved educational attainment
  • pride in achievements
  • greater social and communication skills
  • improved relationships with peers and education staff
  • participation in school community activities, including out of school activities
  • attitudinal change by the young person, their parents and education staff

There was also evidence of wider benefits, including:

  • improved behaviour
  • reduced substance use
  • increased self-confidence, self-esteem, motivation to change and hope for the future
  • enhanced ability to deal with changes and ask for help
  • a fuller life
  • improved family relationships
  • growing social networks
  • increased emotional literacy and wellbeing
  • improved parental confidence and ability to manage behaviours
  • improved mental health
  • identification of, and accessing support for, learning/health difficulties