Internationally and within the UK, there has been growing concern about a perceived behaviour crisis within schools. This study, which took place within a mainstream English secondary school, considered the interplay of the competing notions of exclusion and inclusion for children displaying challenging behaviour. The study used a mixed-methods approach combining quantitative data gathered on school referrals (temporary exclusions from lessons) and interviews with staff and students. This approach allowed both a consideration of trends within referrals and an analysis of how students displaying challenging behaviour are constructed within the discourse of the school. Findings showed that some groups were disproportionately affected by referrals. Within interviews, students and staff oscillated between social and medical models of understanding behaviour both blaming the student and seeing them as a victim of circumstance at the same time. Teachers indicated a greater willingness to change their practice and adopt a social model of understanding pupils when they felt they had been given a reason from the student’s home life or background to do so. Recommendations are made for future research in the previously under-researched area of referrals and implications for practice are discussed to make schools more inclusive of students with challenging behaviour.
- SoE Centre for Psychological Approaches for Studying Education
- school exclusion
- student behaviour
- inclusion discourse