International Journal of Inclusive Education 24(8) pp 867-881
There has been growing concern about the rising numbers of students being excluded from school in England – a trend that is often set against the declining levels of exclusion elsewhere. In Wales and Scotland, for example, numbers of students permanently excluded from school have fallen dramatically. However, we argue that simple system-level comparisons might be misleading. Drawing on data derived from interviews with headteachers in Wales, this paper probes beneath the surface of official statistics and explores the diverse, and often hidden, forms of exclusion that are taking place. Without wishing to deny the damaging consequences of official exclusion from school, it argues that the other forms of exclusion may also carry negative consequences. It concludes that until the effects of these other forms of exclusion are known – at individual, institutional and system level – we should not assume that a school or a system is necessarily any more or less ‘inclusive’ on the basis of official data on school exclusions.