Reducing fixed term exclusions

Headteachers, Teachers, Governors, SENCos, Inclusion Leaders
An update on reducing fixed term exclusions for pupils with SEND support and those with SEMH needs

Following Oxfordshire’s Joint Area SEND inspection, we have set a target to reduce fixed term exclusions (FTE) in secondary schools for students with SEN support and/or Social Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) needs by 30 per cent by December 2018.

In 2016-2017, 2,905 days of education were lost due to FTE of young people with SEND in Oxfordshire secondary schools. Pupils with SEMH needs accounted for 1,569 of those days. A 30 per cent reduction will mean that young people with SEND attend school for 871 more days in 2017-2018. 

Reducing fixed term and permanent exclusions is a priority for Oxfordshire and a programme of work is underway to tackle the issue. The target aims to reduce the rate of fixed term exclusion in secondary schools to be lower than the statistical neighbour average by 2020.  This work relates to young people with SEND, and those with SEMH in particular.

We are tracking the number of days missed to exclusions for SEN support pupils in this academic year, and in particular the days missed for pupils with SEMH needs. In terms 1-4 of this academic year the days lost to exclusion for pupils with SEND had fallen in both primary and secondary schools compared to the previous year. Similar numbers of pupils are currently being excluded, however schools are reducing the number of days.

LA staff are visiting secondary schools to explore practical ways to reduce FTE for pupils with SEND and those with SEMH needs. School leaders are sharing the work they are doing to reduce FTE and the support in place for pupils with SEND. Barriers to this work have also been discussed and a range of actions have been put in place as a result. Below are some highlights from the LA visits to schools.

What are schools doing to reduce FTE for pupils with SEN support and in particular those with SEMH needs?


Tracking fixed term exclusion data over time by group to analyse the three year trend. Actions taken to address any issues. This is reported to governors.

Identifying needs

SENCOs work with pastoral and behaviour leads to identify support for pupils with repeated behaviour incidents. SEN Provision for these pupils is accessed to assess need. A range of assessments are used to establish if access to learning might be a contributing factor to poor behaviour.

Intervention and support

Schools use the Oxfordshire guidance for SEN to identify the barriers to learning for the pupil. Interventions are evaluated using specialist behaviour assessments (QCA / SDQ / Boxall). A range of provision is available to support pupils in crisis and those who require early help or group interventions. Schools are working on shifting the emphasis of support from reactive to proactive.

Schools are involved in a range of initiatives to support pupils including restorative approaches, the development of therapeutic mentors to support pupils who have experienced trauma, developing reflective practice models to improve quality first teaching, and providing additional support to primary schools to support transition of vulnerable pupils.

Schools offer a range of support

Support is put in place to help identify the underlying reason for the pupil’s behaviour. Reasonable adjustments to the curriculum are explored and shared with classroom teachers. Timetables are adjusted to support the pupil to engage positively in learning.


Schools are developing their well-being ‘universal’ offer. This enables leaders to identifying pupils showing signs of needing early help.

Schools are developing their curriculum offer to include more courses in the open element of progress 8.

Bespoke curriculums have been developed in some schools to meet the needs of pupils with EHCPS who have SEMH needs. Pupils with SEN support benefit from this provision.


Schools are engaging in training for staff to ensure SEN needs are identified early and that staff have awareness of how to support and identify pupils with SEMH needs.


One school is developing a project around supporting parents of pupils with anxiety.


Schools are working with primary feeders to develop transition in order to better meet the needs of pupils vulnerable to underachievement.


Schools have a range of provision to support progress of pupils with SEN support. Tracking progress of SEN support pupils throughout the school allows leaders to target interventions and work with teachers to improve quality first teaching.

Exclusion ’Tariffs’

Schools are looking at the number of days given for a fixed term exclusion and questioning the impact of longer exclusions.

Alternatives to exclusion

Schools have developed alternatives to exclusion in school to prevent the use of fixed term exclusions. This is most successful when followed up by restorative approaches.

Behaviour policy

Schools are reviewing the impact of fixed term exclusions and the reasons for giving ‘automatic’ exclusions for certain behaviours. These schools are prioritising the needs of the pupil and finding the most appropriate intervention to resolve the incident and support the pupil to learn from and not repeat the behaviours.

For more information on any of the above, contact