What happens when schools don’t permanently exclude?

October 15, 2017

Recent figures showed a welcome increase in the number of permanent exclusions. This shows that schools are moving in the right direction, by putting the victims of the poor behaviour first.

This invariably results in lots of very liberal people condemning schools for just not being understanding enough. Don’t teachers know that poor behaviour is just children trying to communicate their “unmet needs”? Recent reports about the hundreds of rapes and thousands of sexual assaults that happen in our schools don’t seem to have affected the willingness of those who argue that children are natural saints, corrupted only by their circumstances, or their unsympathetic teachers. “Inclusion Machismo” where virtue-signalling headteachers boast about how they never exclude because that would be “giving up on children” can also help to discourage exclusions.

When somebody told me yesterday that children are permanently excluded for “persistent aggravating behaviour” and that before supporting exclusions I should accept that it’s hard to concentrate if you are hungry, cold or worried, I thought it worth looking into what behaviour teachers actually face by asking the following question on Twitter and Facebook:

What is the worst behaviour you’ve encountered where the student involved was not permanently excluded?

The thread is still being commented on and can be found here. Note that many of these responses go back to the height of “inclusion” and may not reflect how schools now behave. I can say that I’ve seen nothing like this in my last 3 schools. However, these are a fair indicator of what happens when schools are discouraged from excluding. (I’ve tried to include only those from mainstream schools in the UK but may not have done this perfectly).

In my NQT year a pupil tried to burn down the blinds with an aerosol can and matches, then tried to headbutt me when I intervened.

Confiscated a knife whilst on PGCE placement.

A reception class child; tried to throw a child out of a window; choking; spitting; constant swearing; punching; stabbing; scratching I walked him around in an armlock most of the time. Lasted 2 months before the Ed Ps[y]ch got top see him. Left school. Next school instantly excluded. I tried my best but I wasn’t a 1 man referral unit. Looking back I should have taken a day off …In another school I “took” 8 yr old into the hall after he punched a helper. He lifted a chair to throw at me and fell backwards. Hilarious.

Mimicked a teacher, backed them into a corner and blocked escape with a chair. Detention given and rearranged to allow for a football match.

can of Coke opened in my face and was threatened with rape on my pgce placement in M[ain]stream.

Loud racist comments at teacher and other students. “Well, you have to understand, he’s going through some things…”

A student making gorilla sounds to the face of a black teacher

A girl spat in my face a few years ago.

Student repeatedly came into my class and called me a c*nt. so I locked him out. He went crazy, he and another student tried to break the door down and almost succeeded. [The[ doorframe had to be replaced. My crime I stopped him talking to someone in my class by closing the window.

Wow, worst is a big shout. Not sure how to define this. Just in 2017:

  1. Yr 8 Punched HT in belly
  2. Yr 7 White supremacist Graffiti
  3. [Year] 10s Homophobic attack
  4. [Year] 11s Racist attack on EE kid
  5. [Year] 11s Organising gambling on yr 7 fights
  6. [Year] 11s Dealing canabis
  7. [Year] 8s Theft from a T[eacher]’s Wallet
  8. Chair thrown at staff with intent

That’s just off the top of my head, incidents I have had dealings with

A student threatened to rape a female member of staff. Result? No punishment at all.

Pupil took gulp of water and spat it all out over my face & chest. Not even internal exclusion- was expected to teach her next lesson…!

On pgce, child tried to strangle me with my own tie. I got blamed. School head was later disposed off and sch[oo]l massively improved.

As a student tchr, was thrown against wall by large & angry Y8 boy who threatened to make me “bleed & scream”. He was put in detention

Pregnant supply teacher told by kids they were going to cut her baby out and kill them both. Nothing.

False allegation that my colleague had hit the student during class. (Many witnesses said they hadn’t!) No consequence for student.

I’ve been attacked with a hockey stick. Physically attacked on parents evening by a child and his dad…also had several chairs thrown at me and been punched several times…Worst thing I’ve seen with no exclusion is heavily pregnant colleague kicked in the stomach. Never been so angry in my life…

being assaulted with the student’s crutches, he had a broken ankle at the time. I ducked the bag he threw though.

Head butted as well and felt like the guilty party . I was trying to prevent the child from attacking their HoY.

In a school I worked in a pregnant female teacher was punched in the stomach. Had his lunchtimes in isolation and had to return back to her lessons.

In my first school – punched in the face by a student and then her mother slapped me. No sanction given.

Threatened to assault me and other members of staff. He eventually left the college only because he got jailed for attempted murder

Rec[eption] child bit part of another child’s ear off. ( bit two others also) was spat at,bitten and scratched. Used to empty water trays on floor Used to get into water trays. Forced another child’s head into full water tray. We had to get 1-1 support. Child left at end [of year]

Punched in the face.

Repeated teacher assaults and two attempted murders.

Year 11 pupil threatened me with a cricket bat in front of my yr 7 class because he wasn’t happy with his GCSE mock result.

A colleague had her thumb joint fractured when she intervened in a fight. The girl she was trying to remove did it with intent. Three w[ee]ks.

Throwing a razor blade into another pupil’s face. The on-call HoY brought him back after 5 mins asking “How hard did he throw it?”or bringing a knife in as an escalation of a fight the day before. Got half a day in isolation. or punching a TA in the face. No sanction at all. All at the same school.

Child bring a hammer into class and ‘wanting to some damage’

Stabbed in the hand with a pencil because I dared to ask the child to come sit on the carpet for story time.

Called me a “white c**t”. Didn’t get excluded immediately but incident did add to the tower of paperwork necessary to eventually remove.

Student pulled down a Turkish flag and set it on fire. Apparently she was Kurdish. Saw her on front of Guardian that summer [at] the Turkish embassy in London. Head reported as sa[y]ingcshe was a model student. Same school same term – tear gas released in a maths lesson

The majority of the above have occurred in my career, but the worst I’ve seen is a child filling a cup with urine and waiting for an LSA …. whose face he threw it in without provocation

A lad once set fire to his desk in one of my English lessons. That was interesting!

Threatened to have me ‘twatted’, threated by a parent, threatened to have a fire extinguisher thrown at me. Questioned what I did to….Antagonise the student/s. Nothing done Also questioned about why I repeatedly challenged the poor behaviour – rather than ignore

A Y[ear] 7 child attempting to leave classroom without permission or a reason charged at me, pushed me into a wall & I dislocated my shoulder no action taken as the child was looked after & foster carers wouldn’t hav[e] him back if excluded. SLT leant on me v[ery] hard not to complain.

I was punched in the face after stopping a boy who had already punched a girl. I had to teach him the next year because he was a ‘G5 target’

Had white spirit thrown in my face!

Physical intimidation (blocking exit from desk) + verbal abuse over report. 5 day exc[lusion]. Had to push to get removed from my tutor group!

Years ago when I did consultancy, a student lunged for me twice in lesson after making racist comments. Other students heard him threaten to ‘Get me’. Long story short, my account of events was dismissed, nothing happened to student so I terminated the support I provided to school

Had a chair thrown at me week 2 of NQT year. Caught it (ninja skills / blind luck) – rest of class cheered.

Throwing chairs, setting fire to the classroom carpet with lighter fluid, smoking cannabis

Replica gun brought into classroom (did not recognise it as a fake at the time).

student poured acid on a classmate ‘by mistake’. SLT just had a chat w/him. V[ery] unsettling to have him in my class the next day.

Had my finger broken by a student. Deputy said there was no proof that he intended to hurt me

Arson. Not a little bit. About quarter of a building. 7 fire engines, school closed for week.

Year 11 boy using a can of lynx to set fire to year 7 school bags..while yr 7s were wearing them…1 week suspension…

Kicking his TA in the shin, standing on a table throwing chairs, shoving a student into a desk unprovoked, punching a student in the face…

*very very tall* yr 11 grab me by hair *had longish hair at the time* and threaten to “end me”. 2 day exclusion. Did a year in a secondary. Oh also got headbutted by a boy with ASD in my NQT year. He was on the floor so I will leave it to your imagination where he got me.

I’ve had chairs/tables thrown at me. Friends of mine have been bitten so badly that they’ve bled. Internal exclusion at most.

Same [arson]. At a pre[v]ious school I worked in 60% of the School was destroyed. I had to teach the arsonist French. He was then finally excluded for not following his behaviour plan just towards the end of the academic year. Fire happened on the 1st September.

Once had h2so4 [sulphuric acid] thrown at me. Another pulled a knife. Left and went to FE. Peaceful there.

When I was a student teacher one boy said to another “bend her [me] over the desk & give it to her”. I told HoD. No consequences at all.

student brought a knife into primary school; performed in Xmas production that evening

I had a kid repeatedly threaten to kill me. Followed me round school tracking me. Got 3 days in isolation, climbed out the window… scary

Oh yeah forgot y[ea]r 8 hospitalising another with a chair leg in the face. No sanction because the behaviour AP had forgotten about it next day.

Overt racism to the same teacher, twice, two different students. Both still with us.

A pupil slammed a door into my back as hard as he could after he was sent out while I was doing an exit check. Impact sent me to my knees.

I had a student grab my arm and try to break it. I was stopping him from Re-entering the classroom after sending him out. Causing a lot of pain. I was told that he would not be excluded as I had ‘placed myself in a situation where harm was likely to come to me’.!!! I was leaving at the end of the year and this was May. I point blank refused to teach the class if he was in it and as such he was moved down a group. Absolutely disgusting decision but then again he was a star football team player and we can’t piss those off!

As a cover supervisor, I caught a girl trying to stick a sign saying ‘Suck my d**k’ on my back. The Head had a chat with her and told me, ‘This is a good girl who made a bad decision.’ That was the end of the matter.

A boy once deliberately slammed a door onto my hand, didn’t break but badly bruised. He was told to apologise to me which he did, followed by “but you deserved it.” He was sent home for the afternoon.

Telling a teacher to eat shit.

Being knocked out by a class throwing French dictionaries at my head. Also, two lads sitting in my class three times a week muttering,”[teacher’s name]’s a f***ing C*nt”. For a year. Apparently there was ‘nothing the Head could do’,

Repeatedly called an “Irish c*nt” by student – H[ead]Teacher’]s response? “But you are Irish.”

I am still getting further responses. But I think this makes the point. Treating exclusion as a terrible failure to be avoided puts everybody at risk. Sometimes it is necessary and refusing to face up to that is cowardice, not compassion. This is not intended to put anyone off teaching, but we need to be honest about these things; if we cover them up they will get worse and there are all too many people out there who would silence teachers if they got the chance.



  1. Click to access not_present_and_not_correct.pdf

    I would argue if the only option left open is permanent exclusion then the child has been repeatedly failed because there will have been opportunities along the way to intervene, be that assessing if there are undiagnosed learning difficulties or developmental conditions/ mental health concerns, or getting support for the family e.g. Early help assessment, or seeking outreach support from specialist behaviour provisions, or making use of alternative provision.

    Early intervention is key. Teachers should not be left to deal with escalating behaviour with little support from specialists – the fault lies with the school system, however, not the child because like or not, behaviour is a communicative attempt and permanent exclusion will ultimately be one more adversity this child must overcome.

    • I believe in free will. We can all choose not to rape, assault or beat others. Even children, even working class children or children with SEN can make that choice.

      • Your naivety is shocking, believing in ‘free will’ ? what does that even mean? We are products of genetic, family and cultural determinants (the boundaries within which our ‘free will’ operates) – for some children (and lets remember we are talking about children here) an intersection of adverse factors such as cautious/anxious temperament, poor early childhood care and developmental difficulty alongside factors which lead to harsher/ biased treatment by the school system of being male, being poor and being of a Caribbean background mean some children will need more care and support from early on, to avoid escalation to the point of exclusion. Knowing the risk factors is not enough unless we put early interventions in place.
        Unless you are suggesting that the reason for higher permanent exclusion figures for Caribbean boys, those in poverty or with SEN are because these children are somehow genetically, or inherently inferior to the rest….?

        • When I say I believe in free will, I am saying we do not have to rape, assault or beat others. Regardless of our background, race or genes we can choose not to do it. If that’s naive, it’s still preferable to believing that evil is a sickness and we can cure it with science, because that will lead to people being locked away or excluded for being “sick” even when they haven’t done anything wrong yet.

          • your argument is precisely the idea that some people are born evil because you suggest they choose to act violently and that their background, ethnicity and genes has no impact on this choice.

            My argument is the exact opposite, in that factors intersect which increase vulnerability both within and outside of the child. Early intervention can tackle both – however, there is a wider systemic issue around why certain groups are more likely to be excluded.

            However, I do understand the frustration in this post – often classroom teachers are left to deal with escalating behaviour that is not manageable and then blamed when everything goes wrong.

            Schools should neither boast about not excluding, nor crow when they do. A permanent exclusion should be treated as a serious event and a review of processes should always occur afterwards so that all can learn how to avoid this happening again – because permanent exclusion just increases the problem and costs the young person and society much more.

            • No. The alternative to social determinism is not genetic determinism. It is free will. A rejection of determinism.

          • Huh? Sorry I don’t understand the point you are making.

          • @oldandrew is right. I worked for years with children who often had a diabolically bad upbringing.
            Children aren’t stupid, and they work out in short order that those who plead “understand, understand, empathise, help” amount to doing little or nothing about the behaviour in question, and they often clue in as to why on some level.
            What we are seeing is the consequences of continually understanding and excusing lower level behaviour. It’s like heroin (I think). Children get a kick out of the power/ego boost they get from behaving badly (if there isn’t a direct benefit like betting on Yr7 fights) but to get the kick as time goes on it requires worse levels of behaviour, because the old bad behaviour is just passe, and it’s sure more fun than actually having to do boring work.
            (Like entertainmenting lessons, it becomes an expectation rather than a treat and then the level is ramped up so that anything short of a live concert by 1D or whatever is not entertaining enough)
            Caribbean boys are excluded because they behave worse, partly because the world is full of people too stupid or more likely too scared to tell them that their claim of “you’re only doing it because I’m black” is b/s.
            Likewise they figure out they can get away with stuff by claiming non-existent racism all over the place because there are sufficient otherwise unemployable cretins desperate to believe them to protect their non-job.
            If it’s race related, how come it’s not Black Girls, Black African Boys, or Indians or Chinese of any gender. How come these racists (or racist system) apparently love Indian boys but hate Caribbean boys ?

        • Strange how these ‘cultural determinants’ don’t seem to operate very effectively at Michaela. Last time I visited, about 90% of their pupils were BME, and I doubt that many of them had parents educated beyond the age of 16 (if that). The ones I talked to all admitted that their primary schools were pretty much out of control. Whatever bias they experienced didn’t seem to have much effect on them, and they sure as hell didn’t get much additional ‘care and support’ from early on.
          There’s a vast industry out there catering to the supposed needs of children with learning difficulties, mental health problems and developmental difficulties, but if Michaela is anything to go by, we’d be far better off with effective teachers who don’t make excuses for bad behaviour and poor academic achievement.

          • @tomburkard I would question whether in some schools it is practical to expect everyone to be effective. (Just like in some schools almost anyone can teach however bad)
            Perhaps one needs a system where the average teacher can cope by being adequately supported on the ground. Too much behaviour training/management is theoretical rather than practical. It reminds me of government (in the last Labour one this seemed to be every 3 months) where the Education Minister would regularly announce new powers for heads/teachers to deal with behaviour, virtually all of which were impractical.

      • What do you mean ‘even working class children’? Do you think plumbers builders, teachers etc don’t teach their children how to behave?

        • Is that aimed at me? My point is entirely that I don’t think background is an excuse for poor behaviour.

          • Sorry Andrew but you did say ‘even working class children’ can choose not to behave badly. I know you don’t believe in genetic determinism and neither do I, but that phrase suggests social determinism, which clearly has traction with some people replying. Having been on the end of behaviour that was clearly culturally based, e.g. total lack of respect for women, I worry about labels.

            • That was meant to be a pointed reference to those who do believe it.

    • I was a supply teacher in a tough school one day. A year 11 boy went to the back of the class and pretended to masturbate. When I protested he said he had no respect for any woman but his mother (he was a Muslim btw) and continued his activity. I had to have him removed – which took a long time. As far as I know nothing was done about this behaviour.

      In another school I reported that a year 6 boy had called me a bitch in Gujurati (cutera). I was never asked to teach their year 6 again, and the school seemed very unhappy I had reported the incident (I got the feeling they were ignoring foreign language swearing at teachers).

      When working in a difficult school as a permanent teacher two year 7 girls stood up in my classroom and said their father had enjoyed f…ing me. I asked for them to be removed. They turned up in my next lesson as there was nowhere to put them.

      A boy in the same class made a finger gesture at me, imitating sexual intercourse, and nothing was done at all. I was blamed for not engaging the class.

      In another class a boy climbed up a wall pipe. He also threatened to throw a table at another student. I actually deflected this action and was blamed for acting inappropriately.

      I don’t know what remedial action could have been taken earlier with these young people, but they had no right to abuse me nor any right to abuse other students and disrupt their education.

      • See my above comment: I was also hit with a heavy dictionary in one school, after the students had already slung the desks around. I reported it. I never worked with the school or the agency again as I then went to my union who supported me through compensation – not from the school, btw, or the agency but from the criminal injuries board.

  2. There’s a strange paradox here–the vast majority of violently anti-social children are not psychopaths, and in a rational environment they would behave acceptably. However, a rational environment is one where children are held to be responsible for their behaviour, and where adults don’t have hangups about exercising authority and insisting on civilised behaviour. A rational environment also entails effective teaching of essential knowledge and skills. Get all this right, and you won’t need any behaviour specialists. Even the psychopaths will generally play the game.

    • Well…. you still will need behaviour specialists, just at a much more manageable level. In your utopian world (which wasn’t far off what it was like when I started teaching) you would be able to isolate and manage it though. I think the problem for many teachers is sheer volume nowadays, it’s not just the odd child misbehaving occasionally.

      • See my above comment. Yet one of my closest friends teaches in a school with 80% BME and so-so discipline–weak teachers are slaughtered–yet hardly ever has to send a pupil out of class. In the first instance, he can teach: his results are highest in the school. He believes strongly in rote learning and regular testing, which are still anathema in most schools.

        Admittedly, most teachers don’t have his ability, which is why having whole-school policies is so important. I’ve visited a number of schools where pupils are sent to time-out for the most trivial infractions–far from being oppressive, kids buy in to it, and sanctions are seldom necessary. I’ve taught SEN pupils for 25 years, and I’ve never once needed a ‘behaviour specialist’.

        • By “behaviour specialist” I don’t mean one of those buffoons who comes from County Hall with all the answers and runs away when a nice kid goes boo at them.

          I mean people like you (assuming you are that Tom Burkard !) and your friend. People who can offer practical advice on dealing with specific situations. People who have spent time at the chalkface, who don’t panic when confronted by real warm bodies.

          I suspect your friend is successful because his classroom is very well structured and organised, and his regular use of testing and so on is part of that. I think most children actually like that rather than the free flowing “Okay children lets see if we can derive the theory of relativity by playing with plasticine” approach. When I taught supposedly “open exploration” type lessons they were nothing of the sort really.

          SEBD children have always IME been attracted to the forces (disproportionately) because there’s a reliable solid structure there. They like people they can rely on (like your friend) because those people who claim to love and care for them drop them PDQ usually.

          • I’m virtually positive that there’s only one Tom Burkard floating about the UK, and I’d bet a large sum of money that I’m the only one who’s published anything relating to education!

            The friend I refer to shares a rare trait with me: we don’t have the slightest hangup about telling kids what to do. This is something that long pre-dated my experience in the TA, and even the 25 years I spent as a jobbing builder with odd spells in probation work. My friend comes from a northern working-class culture, where men who are afraid of kids get laughed at.

            Any advice I could give a timorous NQT would be of limited value if he or she worked in a school that didn’t have arrangements to remove troublesome kids from class on demand, or one that assumed that it is the teacher’s fault when kids kick off. Part of the problem is their age and experience–I once read a post by a young woman who was applying for a job and the application form asked what she knew about children, and she wrote that she wasn’t sure, but until very recently she had been one.

            Otherwise, just about the only good ‘behaviour management’ technique I’ve ever heard of comes from Evelyn Waugh’s ‘Decline and Fall’, where the young schoolmaster at a dreadful independent school in Wales is advised to offer half a crown to the pupil who writes the longest essay, irrespective of merit.

  3. […] Behaviour is a topic that brings out the ideologues, as I was reminded by the U.K. reaction to a recent blog post by Old Andrew where teachers shared stories of some of the worst behaviour they had encountered. These […]

  4. […] Twitter thread on behaviour that didn’t prompt exclusions. I wrote about this thread here. After seeing arguments claiming that children are permanently excluded from school unnecessarily, […]

  5. However, I do translate the frustration in this billet – often schoolroom teachers are left to deal with escalating behaviour that is not manageable and then blamed when everything goes improper.
    I shady your acquaintance is successful becaconsumption his schoolroom is very well integrated and organised, and his regular consumption of examination and so on is part of that.

  6. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

    • I get the point now. Being somewhat over sensitive I am afraid irony was wasted on me!

  7. […] What happens when schools don’t permanently exclude? […]

  8. […] exclusions are necessary for the safety of children and teachers. The stories of what happens when schools don’t exclude are horrific. Anyone suggesting exclusions should be reduced, should explain exactly why more assaults, […]

  9. […] exclusions are necessary for the safety of children and teachers. The stories of what happens when schools don’t exclude are horrific. Anyone suggesting exclusions should be reduced, should explain exactly why more assaults, […]

  10. […] What happens when schools don’t permanently exclude? […]

  11. […] What happens when schools don’t permanently exclude? […]

  12. […] What happens when schools don’t permanently exclude? […]

  13. […] What happens when schools don’t permanently exclude? […]

  14. […] becomes a matter of begging, bribing and ignoring. We have seen behaviour break down here, particularly in the 2000s, and we have seen it in other countries. And once discipline breaks […]

  15. […] congratulate themselves for not excluding.  I shared what other teachers experienced in this post “What happens when schools don’t permanently exclude?”. It makes terrifying […]

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