Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen a lot of reports published focusing on the related issues of educational underachievement, school exclusion and long-term social exclusion. They’ve been written by organisations with different agendas and priorities, from the IPPR’s report explicitly looking at breaking the link between school exclusion and social exclusion to the Social Mobility Commission’s far more wide-ranging annual report looking at the barriers to achieve a country which truly offers the prospect of social mobility to all.
The most striking thing about these different reports and articles, however, has been the similarity of their overall message: that we have an education system which is failing to support large numbers of the most disadvantaged students and that we have a country in which ever greater numbers of young people are growing up in deprivation.
Within this general picture, there are 3 headline findings which we find most striking.
Firstly, there are wide geographical disparities in educational performance depending on where you are born – “a stark social mobility postcode lottery.” For example, more than half of students growing up in economically deprived families in London achieved 5 good GCSEs, compared to an average of one-third of students in all other English regions.
Secondly, growing up in poverty dramatically increases the possibility of a student being excluded, with students eligible for free school meals four times more likely to be excluded than the rest of the student population.
Finally, being permanently excluded from school dramatically increases the likelihood of entering a lifetime of social exclusion with excluded pupils much more likely to suffer long term mental-health problems, fail to achieve basic levels of literacy and numeracy, to be long-term unemployed and to be repeatedly involved in crime. IPPR research has estimated that the cost to the state of permanently excluding a student is around £370,000 per young person in lifetime education, benefits, healthcare and criminal justice costs.
Permanent exclusion from school is both a personal tragedy and a societal tragedy. No one single actor or policy is to blame. However, a combination of reduced resources for schools alongside an increased focus on attainment for schools all taking place against a background of increasing numbers of young people growing up in deprivation has produced a 40% spike in exclusions over the past 3 years.
At Football Beyond Borders, we work in partnership with schools to support young people to use their love of football to thrive at school. We work with students aged between 11 and 14 years old – a stage in schooling where students often begin to become disengaged in a period Ofsted have dubbed ‘the Wasted Years’.
We know through our experiences of working with hundreds of students across dozens of schools that all students want to learn, want to achieve and want a place to belong in the education system.
It is clear from the publication of this flurry of report, that ever more people are in agreement that there is a big problem with the way our education system treats the most vulnerable, and that, therefore, something has to change.
Equally, the two – way relationship between school exclusion and social exclusion means that this isn’t a problem that the education system can solve alone. Instead, it raises broader questions about the challenges of creating an inclusive education system which works for all in a country in which 500,000 more children more children are growing up in poverty than 5 years ago.
If you would like to find out more about Football Beyond Borders plans to work with other institutions to tackle these issues, please contact Jack Reynolds on: firstname.lastname@example.org.