At Cabins For Schools, we regard an outdoor classroom as an investment. When a school’s business manager shared the reason they were considering our products, we began to see this notion in a whole new light.
With permission, we can say that the school had recurring behavioural issues with a student who, despite their best efforts, was close to needing Alternative Provision (AP settings are places that provide education for children who can’t go to a mainstream school). The school’s ethos that 'no child gets left behind' (their approach to special educational needs is best in class – pardon the pun) prompted them to apply some creative thinking to the challenge.
The school’s plan: Create a cost-effective place within the school grounds that can be used as an inclusion space for children with challenging needs, not just for one child now, but for years to come.
THE IMMEDIATE COST OF EXCLUSION
In their article, ‘11 Facts You Should Know About School Exclusions’, the website eachother.org.uk claims ‘Sometimes the cost of Alternative Provision – an alternative schooling centre designed as a last resort for children who cannot cope in a mainstream school – can be comparable to that of a high-end private school.’
In 2018, Ofsted’s own analysis suggested a full-time Alternative Provision placement for an academic year could cost a local authority £18,000 ('Alternative provision market analysis' - Isos Partnership). A quick Google search of private school annual fees suggests an average of around £15,000 per year, while those figures are similar, at Cabins For Schools it was another comparison that we found compelling.
For the potential cost, according to this report, to a Local Authority of placing a pupil in AP, a school can invest in an extended log cabin which could provide the school with an inclusion space for years to come! A cost-effective place within the school grounds that can be used as an inclusion space for children with challenging needs, not just for one child now, but for years to come (Just saying!)
The costs don’t end with the expulsion of an individual child though, the societal costs can be much longer lasting.
THE EXPONENTIAL COST OF EXCLUSION
According to a council report by Kirklees Council (where expulsions were 'double the national average'), just one in twenty children who finish their education in AP pass their English and Maths GCSEs and half of those educated in such settings are not in education, employment, or training only six months after leaving. Kirklees Council have a revolutionary ambition – more on this to come!
This has a far-reaching knock-on effect.
A 2017 study by the IPPR think tank suggested that the long-term cost of excluding a child from school can be around £370,000 in expenditure including educational costs, benefits, healthcare and the criminal justice costs.
The report, published by The Thinktank and reported by Tes magazine in October 2017, drew attention to the link between children growing up in poverty - or experiencing mental health problems - and school exclusions.
‘As mental ill health in young people rises, and more children are subject to interaction with social care services each year, more vulnerable children spill into the alternative provision sector,’ the report states, adding: ‘Too often, this path leads them straight from school exclusion to social exclusion.’
Pre-pandemic, children in England were permanently excluded from school 6,685 times in 2015-16 - equivalent to around 35 a day and based on this number, the IPPR calculated that excluding children cost the government around £2.1 billion a year.
THE LAWYERS ARE WATCHING
If a child is permanently excluded, then the local authority has a duty to provide an alternative provision that will be able to meet the child’s needs.
Only Head Teachers can exclude children from school and can only do so for disciplinary reasons.
Children with Special Educational Needs, for instance Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), are especially vulnerable to being excluded due to difficulties processing sensory or communication information, this can lead to ‘explosive’ or difficult behaviour. Recently, The National Autistic Society reported that 17% of children with ASD have been suspended from school; 48% of these had been suspended three or more times; 4% had been expelled from one or more schools.
Of course, it is unlawful to exclude a child just because the school can’t meet the child’s special educational needs, the school must explore alternative provisions and assess what additional support a child requires. If the school is not able to deal with a child’s needs, they are able to manage a school transfer.
If the child has a Statement or an Educational Health and Care (EHC) plan, the local authority must also consult with the parents before naming the alternative provision. The Statement and EHC plan both remain legally binding documents and the local authority has a continuing duty to provide the educational needs prescribed by them.
Naturally, all this has attracted the attention of legal firms who advise any parent of a child or young person who is at risk of exclusion to request an immediate review of the Statement / EHC plan to address why their child is being excluded and work out what further support or change of support is required.
A Head Teacher friend believes that this could be a ‘legal minefield for schools’ and is already looking at a policy of inclusion rather than exclusion where possible.
ZERO EXPULSIONS BY 2030
Kelsey Clark-Davies, Head of Educational Safeguarding and Inclusion at Kirklees Council spoke recently of the council’s ‘ambition and commitment’ to reduce exclusion rates, outlining the council’s aim to see no exclusions by 2030.
Their proposed methodology is noteworthy - addressing the problem through what they call a ‘trauma-informed approach’, increasing understanding of SEND, and improving provision in schools by providing ‘the right support in the right place at the right time.’
Other councillors have expressed doubts about a zero-exclusion target, branding it unrealistic, but Jo-Anne Sanders, Service Director for Learning and Early Support, while admitting that it was ‘not without challenge’ emphasised that it was important due to the ‘devastating impact’ that permanent exclusion can have on a person’s life chances.
RIGHT SUPPORT, RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME
All of this brings us back to the plan described at the start by the school’s business manager:
'The school’s plan: Create a cost-effective place within the school grounds that can be used as an inclusion space for children with challenging needs, not just for one child now, but for years to come.'
An outdoor classroom or log cabin building is the perfect place to create an inclusion space for children with special educational or behavioural needs.
The 17m² cabin being considered in this instance (with extension increasing available floor space to 24m²) delivers enough space for a class of 30 pupils - or plenty of space to allow a child, like the student facing the last resort of AP (or even a handful of children with complex needs) to have room to develop within the school environment - but separate from the distractions that every day school can bring.
As the business manager explained, children with special needs can present a catch 22 or vicious circle: the school environment can be disruptive to the child; because of this the child exhibits behaviour that is disruptive to the wider school environment; and so on. It is widely acknowledged that, despite this, the two can also be mutually beneficial if you can find a way for them to co-exist.
With its calming spruce aromas and natural light and airy qualities, a cabin is the perfect space for inclusion, and comes with a secure and lockable door and double-glazed opening windows.
With its 10 years manufacturer's guarantee, a cabin can provide a SEND solution for years to come and because the overall space needed for this cabin is just 7.8m by 6.2m, it can sit within the school grounds.
There are several case studies on our Cabins For Schools website. I’m especially fond of Springfield School which caters for children and young people between the ages of 4 to 19 with Severe Learning Difficulties and Complex needs. Admission to Springfield School is for those children and young people with a Statement of Special Educational Needs or an Education Health Care Plan.
Another visionary School Business Manager, Lynn Stubbs, approached Cabins For Schools with the school’s need for an outdoor learning Cabin to allow all pupils to access all aspects of Forest Learning. Cabins For Schools installed a 17m² Cabin, with a BBQ Grill to allow the children to experience fire in a safe environment. Springfield School’s cabin was also made accessible for wheelchair users.
Watch this inspirational video about Springfield’s Forest School and the difference the Cabins For Schools building has delivered.
That aim of Kirklees Council – zero exclusions by 2030 – is a massive and ambitious undertaking! It’s also an inspirational, pioneering and worthy target and, if they achieve it, they will have made a ground-breaking difference, not just to the educational journey of children now but to their whole life … and set in motion a chain reaction that will benefit generations to come. At Cabins For Schools, we wish them good luck.
We can we help you create the perfect outdoor classrooms or inclusion spaces.
Call us today on 0800 0448 418
Visit our show-sites or email: email@example.com.
WATCH A CABINS FOR SCHOOLS CASE STUDY: https://youtu.be/IhHYGUHjOi8