Young People at Risk of Drop-out from Education

Eleni Stamou, Anne Edwards, Harry Daniels, Lucinda Ferguson

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


The Aim of this report is to discuss the risk factors contributing to pupils’ drop-out from education by drawing on the
findings of relevant research.
Drop-out is used to refer to a range of positions on a dimension of disengagement: from the detachment of pupils
in full-time education from the education offered to them, to pupils’ exclusion from school on a fixed-term basis and
pupils’ permanent exclusion from school.
In 2011-12 there were 5,170 recorded permanent exclusions and 304,370 fixed-term exclusions. Disengagement from
full-time education, depending on how it is defined and measured can account for up to one-third or one-fifth of the
total population of 14-16 year olds.
Illegal exclusions refer to off-the-record, informal or under-the-radar exclusions. Despite the difficulties in tracking
down these exclusions, recent research has provided worrying evidence of their occurrence.
Persisting patterns of inequality are also identified as a key problem in school exclusions, with certain groups being
overrepresented in exclusions steadily through time.
Research analyses have mapped-out different degrees of disengagement of pupils attending full-time education.
‘Disengaged from school not education’ refers to pupils who are negative towards school, face challenges with
school discipline and are likely to play truant; yet they have aspirations for continuing with education. The main risk
factor is ethnicity, with Black Caribbean students being overrepresented in this group.
‘Disengaged’ are pupils who have no interest in school and education generally. Most of them find themselves in
Year 12 being NEET (not in education, employment or training) or having a job with no training. Ethnicity and socioeconomic background are the main risk factors, with white working class young people being overrepresented.
Factors contributing to disengagement as they have been identified by pupils themselves include: the structure of
lessons in school, the low level of activity they involved, their relations with teachers and other school staff as well as
their own difficulties with behaviour and anger management.
Risk factors for permanent and fixed-term exclusion predominantly relate to pupils belonging to certain social
groups. Pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN) are six times more likely to be excluded compared to their nonSEN peers, boys are three times more likely to be excluded than girls, Black Caribbean as well as Gypsy, Roma and
Irish travellers are four times more likely to be excluded than their non-ethnic minority peers. In terms of age, exclusions
are more frequent in Year 9.
Current policy responses for preventing and dealing with pupil drop-out from education include: the introduction
of Pupil Premium, which provides extra funding to schools for each one of their vulnerable pupils; the replacement of
Independent Appeal Panels with the Independent Review Panels which have no power to reinstate excluded pupils;
the launch of the exclusion trials that shift responsibility and funds from local authorities to schools in order to arrange
alternative provision for their pupils; encouraging the conversion of Pupils Referral Units into academies or free schools;
and the Troubled Families Programme, which is based on short-term, targeted and intensive family interventions.
Examples of local responses to pupils’ disengagement and exclusion include: research and intervention projects
run by Barnardo’s (Shropshire Project, Leeds Reach, Late Intervention Service) in collaboration with local authorities;
Family Action’s ‘Be Bothered’ campaign, interventions to support young carers, as well as their work on achieving
better outcomes on attendance and exclusion through the Troubled Families programme.
Other organisations working with pupils who are at risk of drop-out include: Chance UK, Home-School Support and
Just for Kids Law
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationUniversity of Oxford
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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