The department last directly commissioned research on this topic from Ofsted in April 2005. Ofsted conducted a survey involving 13 local authorities and found that most were aware of a small number of unofficial exclusions, and had mechanisms in place to detect these.
However, we also funded TreeHouse, a non-maintained special school in North London, for children with autism, to work with 10 local parent support groups to campaign constructively for better autism services. One of the groups was particularly interested in informal exclusions and TreeHouse decided to survey the parents in all 10 projects. This reported that 55 per cent of parents reported that their child had been illegally excluded at some time.
It is difficult to measure the prevalence of informal exclusions due to their unlawful nature.
The department recognises the importance of tackling informal/unofficial exclusions, since they can have serious impact on children's education, particularly if they are used repeatedly or result in the child being removed from education for a long period of time. For these reasons, the department’s guidance on exclusions, to which head teachers and local authorities must have regard, gives an unequivocal message that unofficial exclusions are illegal and should not take place. Additional guidance is available from the department setting out effective practice for local authorities and schools in managing and eliminating incidents of unofficial exclusion.