[Press and Public Relations] Research Reveals the Hidden Problems of Girls Excluded from School

January 2002

No 5

"The difficulties faced by girls are due to them not acting out that much...They are quieter, they tend to stop attending and they often disengage from school...they may only come to attention if they turn to bullying." Interview with a deputy headteacher.

Girls who are excluded from school or have stopped attending are an underestimated minority. Research for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation points to a widespread belief among schools that girls 'are not a problem'. This has led to the scale of exclusion and self-exclusion going unrecognised and the particular needs of disaffected girls being inadequately met.

The new study finds that girls are seldom seen as a priority in the way that schools and local education authorities (LEAs) apply their behaviour and exclusion policies. The strong focus on conduct problems among boys means that the help available for girls who get into difficulties is often poorly resourced and inappropriate.

Official figures show that nationally girls represent just 17 per cent of permanent exclusions from school - around 1,800 a year. But many more girls are removed from class informally or for fixed periods. And the study points to an even less visible group of vulnerable girls who exclude themselves from regular school attendance, often as a result of bullying.

Researchers from the Centre for Citizenship Studies in Education at the University of Leicester and the New Policy Institute carried out focus groups and in-depth interviews with girls of secondary-school age. They also spoke to parents, teachers and other staff working in three contrasted LEA areas. They found that:

Professor Audrey Osler, co-author of the report, said: "Support for vulnerable girls will help to avoid school exclusion which often leads to long-term social exclusion in adulthood. Yet there appears to be relatively little consideration of how the pastoral support provided by schools and LEAs is meeting the specific needs of girls. While in principle girls and boys have equal access to support and educational alternatives, resources for disaffected pupils are largely directed towards boys."

Dr Cathy Street, co-author of the report, said: "Multi-agency working is crucial if the more subtle difficulties presented by girls are to be identified and addressed. Education and child and adolescent mental health services need to work more effectively together. There are still difficulties with these providers assuming that the other has responsibility, leaving young women adrift from appropriate support."

Note to Editors

Not a problem? Girls and school exclusion by Audrey Osler, Cathy Street, Marie Lall and Kerry Vincent is published for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation by the National Children's Bureau, 8 Wakley Street, London EC1V 7QE (020-7843 6000) price 12.95 plus 3.00 p&p. A summary of findings from the report is available, free, from JRF, The Homestead, 40 Water End, York YO30 6WP or www.jrf.org.uk

The study will be launched at 10.30 for 11am on Wednesday 9th January 2002 Royal Society, 6 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1. Members of the press are welcome to attend.

For further information, contact 

(Issued by David Utting, JRF Head of Media Relations, 020-7278 9665 / 01727 762855/ 07930 313790)


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