Robin Walker – 2022 Comments on Exclusion of Roma and Gypsy Pupils

The comments made by Robin Walker, the Minister of State for School Standards, at the Education Committee meeting on 15 March 2022.

Exclusion is clearly a concern. As you say, it is the highest rate of permanent exclusions, at 0.24%, and of suspensions, at around 15%, for the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community. We think that having strong cultures of good behaviour in schools helps to reduce the risk of suspensions and exclusions and helps to create an environment in which pupils from all backgrounds can feel safe and comfortable and can thrive.

To your point about persistent disruption, I think there is a concern that this is often a two-way process—that this is not necessarily just a child who is creating disruption. There can be tension between those children and others in the school and they then potentially go down that route. A school with a strong behaviour policy can manage that, deal with it and take earlier intervention to avoid the escalation to the types of suspensions and permanent exclusions that we have seen in this space too often.

We think it is right to back head teachers in having those policies, but our statutory guidance is clear that all schools should consider what extra support might be needed to identify and address the needs of children from groups with protected characteristics. That includes Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, who currently face a disproportionately high rate of exclusion. It is important we look at that.

Among this group there is also a higher rate of special needs. The work that we are doing on the SEND Green Paper will be important in making sure the right support is there in the right place for that area as well.