Academies have been criticised for having an “alarmingly higher” rate of pupil exclusions than state schools and for failing to reinstate pupils on appeal.
A report by the charity Communities Empowerment Network found that in 2012/13, 2,700 pupils were excluded from the 18,763 maintained schools while over the same period 1,930 pupils were excluded from 2,390 academies.
It also emerged that when independent review panels (IRPs) recommended school governors reconsider a decision to exclude “virtually no academies or free schools have, so far, reinstated a pupil”.
The report, Mapping the Exclusion Process: Inequality, Justice and the Business of Education, found that the IRP process was failing parents looking to challenge decisions around exclusion and should be scrapped. The report was particularly concerned that the IRP had no power to force a school to reinstate a pupil.
It also found too many schools, including those in the maintained sector, academies and free schools, were illegally excluding pupils as governors were failing in their statutory duty to scrutinise decisions and challenge head teachers.
Communities Empowerment Network's founder and patron, Professor Gus John, was concerned that the government had failed to act on previous concerns raised about school exclusions, most notably by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England.
He said: “There is a wilful, wasteful and discriminatory war on our children. Despite the careful and fact-rich research presented to government of the extent of illegal exclusions across the country, as well as the impact of the exclusion regime on the most vulnerable of school students, the government has gone on pursuing its agenda not just to endorse and collude with existing illegal practice, but to extend the scope head teachers and governors have for denying fundamental rights to school students and their parents/carers.”
The quality of education that excluded pupils received was also called into question. The report details how this is too often typified by reduced teaching hours and limited timetables.
In addition, the small number of excluded pupils that are reinstated receive no compensation for the learning time they have missed.
Among recommendations made is to replace IRPs with an effective appeals system, which can sanction schools that illegally exclude a pupil.