Press Story

Children excluded from mainstream schools are two and half times more likely to have an unqualified teacher, according to analysis conducted jointly with the IPPR think tank.

The revelation comes as official figures released today (Thursday) from the Department for Education show a continuing rise in the number of pupils excluded.

The new analysis, conducted jointly by education charity The Difference and IPPR, suggests that the alternative institutions meant to provide for the growing number of excluded pupils are themselves facing increasing problems. It found:

  • The proportion of unqualified teachers in such schools rose by 17 per cent over the past two years, despite falling by six per cent in ordinary schools
  • Classroom vacancies in schools for excluded pupils have trebled over the past five years
  • Excluded pupils are twice as likely to have a temporary supply teacher, making it more difficult for them to build the stable relationships that would contribute to improving their educational and life prospects

Making The Difference, the most comprehensive study of England’s exclusions, published by IPPR late last year, found that excluded pupils were the most vulnerable in society. After taking into account likely poorer outcomes throughout their lives, each excluded child is estimated to cost the state £370,000 each in extra education, benefits, healthcare and criminal justice costs – equivalent to £2.1bn for last year’s cohort of excluded pupils.

Recruiting the best teachers to work with them, and increasing specialised knowledge among the teaching workforce, is key to rewriting this story of worsening exclusion and poor outcomes for excluded pupils, the IPPR study concluded. Yet as new data is published, it is clear the situation is worsening, not getting better.

After the report was published, IPPR recommended that a new educational charity, The Difference, be established to run a new teacher training programme and develop an evidence base for working with the most vulnerable. Such a charity would tackle the problem of rising exclusions by:

  • Delivering a fast-track career programme, inspired by charities Teach First and Frontline, to bring great teachers into leadership in the sector that serves excluded pupils
  • Providing specialist training for these teachers in improving pupils’ access to employment, boosting pupil literacy, and tackling difficult safeguarding issues including gang grooming and child sexual exploitation
  • Encouraging these teachers to take their expertise into mainstream schools after their two-year programme, creating a new generation of school leaders who are better able to understand the needs of vulnerable pupils and work to reduce the number excluded.

MPs and others called for urgent action in response to today’s worsening exclusion figures, in the light of last year’s Making The Differencereport.

Robert Halfon MP, Chairman of the House of Commons Education Select Committee said:

“Policymakers need to sit up and take notice of the rising problem of school exclusions and the outcomes for children in alternative provision. Some of our most vulnerable children are being let down and the Government should pay close attention to this report’s call for the most talented teachers to work with those children who need them most”.

David Lammy MP said:

“Action to address the quiet social apartheid of school exclusions is well overdue. The relationship between Pupil Referral Units and the criminal justice system has become symbiotic and the rise of exclusions is creating a pipeline of young people into our prison system. There is no fiscal or moral case to continue like this.”

Norman Lamb MP, Liberal Democrat health spokesperson, said:

“We urgently need specialist leadership training, so that schools can support young people with mental health problems. The cost of inaction is huge. The Difference creates a pipeline of school leaders equipped to support universal mental health and to intervene in the most acute instances.”

Kiran Gill, IPPR Associate Fellow and founder of The Difference said:

“This new data makes clear that the situation is worsening, not improving.

“Too often the country’s most vulnerable and troubled children become invisible as they are pushed out of the mainstream school system. But by not addressing their challenges when they first appear, we are brewing trouble for later. The majority of today’s prison population were excluded when at school. The Difference exists to change this story.

“We want to raise the status and expertise of working with the most vulnerable children. The Difference will connect exceptional teachers to the most challenging and rewarding jobs. By drawing together best practice from education, psychology, social work, and criminal justice, we will start to develop an evidence-based approach to breaking the link between school exclusion and social exclusion.”



Florri Burton, IPPR: 020 7470 6154 / 07867 388895


· Kiran Gill, Associate Fellow at IPPR and founder of The Difference: 07525 622651

· Harry Quilter-Pinner, Research Fellow at IPPR: via IPPR, see above


Last year’s IPPR report on school exclusions, Making The Difference: Breaking the link between school exclusion and social exclusion, can be found at

It found that excluded pupils are:

  • Four times more likely on average than mainstream pupils to live in poverty
  • Four times more likely to be Black Caribbean
  • Three times more likely to be known to social services
  • Ten times more likely to have recognised mental health problem
  • More vulnerable to gang grooming and knife crime

It revealed that excluded pupils are at higher risk of poor outcomes:

  • Only 1 per cent gain five good GCSEs with English and Maths
  • One in two are not in education, employment and training (NEET) between the ages of 16 and 18
  • One in two prison inmates were excluded when at school
  • Each excluded child will eventually cost the state over £370,000 in extra education, benefits, healthcare and criminal justice costs – a total of £2.1bn to the exchequer for last year’s cohort of excluded pupils.

New statistics are from analysis of data in DfE (2017) School workforce in England: November 2017

Analysts compared proportions of unqualified and temporary staff, and numbers of vacant posts in mainstream secondary schools and special and alternative provision schools.

The Difference

The Difference charity believes that children with chaotic home lives, mental health challenges and learning difficulties deserve support, not exclusion. The majority of today’s prison population were excluded when at school. We exist to change this story.

We are creating a new generation of leaders to deliver the best in education to the most vulnerable children. We work to develop new expertise in the profession, connect exceptional teachers to schools for excluded children and create a community of leaders to drive change throughout England’s education system.

From September 2019 The Difference plans to train its first leaders in specialist skills, and place them in the schools which need them most.


IPPR is the UK’s pre-eminent progressive think tank. Our mission is to open up opportunity, power and prosperity to everyone through conducting rigorous research and generating big ideas. With more than 40 staff in offices in London, Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh, IPPR is Britain’s only national think tank with a truly national presence.