School exclusion disparities in the UK: a view from Northern Ireland

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Across the four UK jurisdictions, there are distinct disparities in exclusion
rates of school students. Northern Ireland, alongside Scotland and Wales,
has demonstrated over time, lower rates of permanent exclusions and
temporary exclusions compared with England. This paper examines these
disparities from the perspectives of representatives from various systemlevel educational bodies and third sector organisations representing children and families who experienced the exclusion process. The paper will
also present policy and legal frameworks associated with exclusion in
Northern Ireland.
We interviewed 9 stakeholders, associated with practices of school
exclusion in Northern Ireland, from a range of system-level education
bodies and advocacy groups. Findings include positive strategies perceived to keep exclusion levels low, types of obstacles or resistance to
anti-exclusion policy, participants’ perspectives on unofficial exclusion
practice, and perspectives on official exclusion data. What emerges from
interviews is a series of tensions between implementing a child-centred
approach and diminishing support services and resources. We conclude
that those working within the Northern Ireland education system, are
committed to an inclusive approach. However, the development and
implementation of effective supporting frameworks take time and consultation, and there is evidence of tension between the perceptions of
those working at a system-level and those working in schools.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-18
Number of pages16
JournalEmotional & Behavioural Difficulties
Issue number1
Early online date19 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 19 Mar 2021


  • Clinical Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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