‘I was not a priority’: Impact of Permanent School Exclusion from the previously excluded adult perspective

This enquiry sought to explore the impact of permanent school exclusion, through adults who were excluded from secondary mainstream education. Although the topic is extensively researched, proving largely negative consequences, the increasing rate of PEX proves the matter persists. With that in mind, I also asked the question, what can be done to limit the impact of PEX, or reduce the rate of PEX? An extremely important aim throughout was to empower participants, for them to have their voices heard.

To account for individuals differing experiences of exclusion, whilst ensuring the collection of in-depth data, the research was conducted as a case study. Participants initially completed a questionnaire, a decision made to counteract the bias that I posses due to my personal education experience, and current employment (pupil referral unit). Those that wished to were then invited to a 1:1 interview to further discuss their experiences. Using thematic analysis, alongside my personal knowledge, I identified 5 themes throughout the data.

  1. Impact on emotions and sense of self

One participant reported relief upon being excluded, others felt a mixture of scared, introverted, happy, and unbothered. Of the latter, one felt the justification provided for their exclusion, as opposed to the exclusion itself, negatively impacted their identity and ability to maintain their values.

  1. Relationship with others

One person struggled to make friends post-PEX, another had more friends than before. Some family members were supportive, others disappointed and for one their abuse intensified. The importance of protective relationships in school was identified by every participant through the absence of such during their own experiences.

  1. Relationship with education and academic outcomes

One participant left school at fourteen with no qualifications. Another left with three GCSE’s but left post-16 without the qualification she wanted. The final person reported ‘ok’ grades and a successful post-16.

  1. Future Consequences

One individual studies education at university, another aspires to be a teacher, and the final participant had a mental health crisis and served a prison sentence. All participants have returned to some form of further education such as college to resit GCSEs or gain vocational qualifications. PEX was not reported as a barrier to their employment as adults, something one feared as a teen.

What can be done?

  1. Positive relationships in school are vital
  2. School policies must be robust
  3. Schools should be honest throughout the exclusion process