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A scene from the BBC show Don't Exclude Me - Copyright: BBC

Don’t Exclude Me

With school exclusions at their highest in a decade, behavioural expert Marie Gentles works with teachers and parents to help keep pupils in the classroom.

About the programme

With school exclusions at their highest in a decade, behavioural expert Marie Gentles visits Milton Hall Primary School in Southend, to help the school manage their most challenging pupils. Marie previously spent 10 years as the headteacher of a Pupil Referral Unit and her experience, working with children outside of mainstream education, which has allowed her to develop techniques that can help avoid exclusions completely. The film follows her time at the school supporting teachers and parents as they work together to keep children in class. 

To find out more about this programme, you can visit the BBC programme page. To discover more, watch our exclusive videos below. 

Discover the range of qualifications and modules from the OU related to this programme:

 Marie Gentles - Don't Exclude Me - Copyright BBC

Copyright: BBC

Exclusive short films

Explore the world of Don't Exclude Me further, with two exclusive videos full of unseen footage, alongside expert insight from our Open University academics.

Don't exclude me - a boy lays on the corridor floor. Copyright BBC

Watch | Putting inclusivity first

Watch an exclusive short film exploring inclusivity at Milton Hall Primary and hear from our expert, Dr Liz Chamberlain on the importance of communication in managing behaviour.

Together with Marie Gentles, staff at Milton Hall Primary reflect on the challenges of managing behavioural issues and putting inclusivity first. 


Inclusion in the classroom

A school boy leans on his desk, from Don't Exclude Me. Copyright BBC

Copyright: BBC

All behaviour communicates something

Dr Liz Chamberlain, Senior Lecturer in Education at The Open University, explores the role of good communication and supportive school communities, in managing classroom behaviour and nurturing inclusivity.


Many new teachers, and those thinking of becoming teachers, often share the same initial concern. A worry that when behaviour becomes an issue, they won’t be able to ‘manage’ the children in their classes. Over my 30 years of being in education as a teacher, senior leader, a behavioural support advisor for a local authority and teacher educator, I have worked with hundreds of children and each has taught me the same thing about behaviour – it is all about communication. 

All behaviour communicates something.  The child who answers back in class could be a tired child, a distressed child, a bright child keen to give an answer, a bored child, or even the ‘just having a bad day’ child.  What new teachers quickly learn is that good behaviour management (a term often used in schools) is based on mutually respectful relationships, and an awareness of that child and their needs. A teacher who knows their children well will know the potential reasons behind that behaviour, and will seek out and apply the right strategy to help the child quickly get back to their learning.  This type of inclusive classroom with its emphasis on addressing and responding to the diversity of needs of young learners is based on the principle that all children need to feel a sense of belonging.  

Student teachers quickly realise there is no one set of lectures or training sessions that will cover everything they need to know about behaviour.  Here, Julie Wharton, Open University alumna and Senior Lecturer, talks about her work with student teachers at the University of Winchester.  

"We stress the importance of developing positive relationships as key to creating welcoming and inclusive classrooms. Sometimes children need additional support to enable them to feel included in the life of their school community. Understanding theories of inclusion and valuing diversity is key to becoming a respectful educator."

Key to this is understanding that a child’s behaviour is impacted by a multitude of factors. For children to learn, they need to feel safe in an inclusive learning environment, led by both the teacher and a supportive wider school community. An environment where the teaching matches their academic needs, and where they can succeed, or fail, in their learning and be happy to have another go.


You can find out more information about the expectations for student teachers across the four home nations using the following links.  

The Welsh government Initial Teacher Education (ITE) professional standards.  The General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland professional competence framework, Teaching: The reflective profession. In England, the Department for Education’s Core Content Framework. The General Teaching Council for Scotland Standard for Provisional Registration.


Marie Gentles Speaks to head. Don't exclude me. Copyright BBC

Watch | Change and challenge

See a short film of unseen footage, looking at how Milton Hall Primary has coped with the challenge of change, and hear from our expert Dr Eric Addae-Kyeremeh on the importance of contextual learning.

Staff from Milton Hall Primary School reflect on navigating through the changes and challenges they've faced over the last year, and the impact of Marie's in-school coaching.


Bringing a teacher’s learning and development, back to school.

Marie Gentles works with a teach and pupil. Don't Exclude Me. Copyright BBC

Copyright: BBC

...learning, training and development that takes place close to the practice, offers greater opportunity to learn-and-do

Dr Eric Addae-Kyeremeh looks at the whole-school approach to professional learning and development, and the significance of coaching and modelling practice.

While it’s still useful to get out of school for training and development, many researchers and practitioners now agree, that teachers should be encouraged and supported to develop professionally within their schools, if we are to improve the quality of learning outcomes for students. In other words, “a teacher’s learning and development cannot be disconnected from the context within which their practice takes place” (Little, 1992).

My experience of working with school leaders and teachers over the last 15 years, and my own research in the area, also reaffirms this view.

Some of the strategies used in school-based contexts like this, include the focussed training, coaching and modelling witnessed in Don’t Exclude Me. Where Maire Gentles, an expert practitioner, spends time with individuals, coaching and modelling practice, in the school.

As Andy Douglas, the headteacher in the series explains.

‘…having an expert to be on site and in the moment, deal with things and support teachers and the senior team and pastoral staff, has been absolutely brilliant…’.

So, learning, training and development that takes place close to the practice, offers greater opportunity to ‘learn and do’.

Headteachers, and more broadly school leaders, are the ones best positioned within the school setting, to create the conditions and supportive culture that’s needed to allow school-based development approaches to grow and be sustained. For example, the practical support from deputy headteacher Tom Spence, in a time of crisis, demonstrates the school’s values and commitment to peer support.

The challenge though, is the resource-heavy nature of some school-based interventions, which can make it much harder to sustain the more creative solutions, such as the approach Marie Gentles introduced to the school. However, ensuring enough staff are skilled and empowered to share their expertise and experiences, can help scale-up solutions across the entire school, creating a supportive community of practice.

This is very important in learning contexts because sustaining changes like this can be very tiring and hard to maintain. It is through connecting and sharing with peers, that individuals build confidence and develop a deep sense of shared understanding, in ways that are difficult to achieve in one-off trainings.


Meet the OU experts

A profile image of OU academic Dr Eric Addae-Kyeremeh, head of School in the School of Education, Childhood, Youth and Sport at the Open University
Eric Addae-KyeremehHead of School - Education, Childhood, Youth and SportVIEW FULL PROFILE
A profile image of OU academic Dr Eric Addae-Kyeremeh, head of School in the School of Education, Childhood, Youth and Sport at the Open University
Eric Addae-KyeremehHead of School - Education, Childhood, Youth and Sport

Eric Addae-Kyeremeh BA (Hons) MA (IS) MEd EdD is the Head of School in the School of Education, Childhood, Youth and Sport, here at the Open University. Eric has over 20 years professional experience that involves teaching, research, scholarship of teaching and learning, knowledge exchange, consultancy and public engagement. He was admitted into Fellowship by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT in 2012 for demonstrating leadership, eminence and authority in the area of educational technologies. In recognition of his expertise, significant impact and contribution to leadership and management in education and training he was awarded Chartered Fellowship by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) in the same year. 

Dr Addae-Kyeremeh is a signatory to the joint statement on education reform published in the Sunday Times on 10th January 2021 calling for radical reforms and the creation of an education system that nurtures talent and creates opportunity for all.

Prior to joining the Open University in 2011, Eric worked in the Further Education (FE) sector in England from 2000-2010, firstly as a lecturer in Computing and ICT and then in a range of leadership and management positions. During his career in FE he led and managed a number of subject areas including Science and Mathematics; Information and Communication Technology; and Business, Administration and Law.

A profile image of OU academic Liz Chamberlain, Senior Lecturer in Education at The Open University in the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies
Liz ChamberlainSenior Lecturer in EducationVIEW FULL PROFILE
A profile image of OU academic Liz Chamberlain, Senior Lecturer in Education at The Open University in the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies
Liz ChamberlainSenior Lecturer in Education

Dr. Liz Chamberlain (BEd, Brighton; MA, Sussex; EdD, Open) is a Senior Lecturer in Education at The Open University in the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies.  She is Academic Director for the Leave No Girl Behind project, Strengthening Adolescent Girls' Education (SAGE), in partnership with the NGO, Plan International, working with 16,000 girls in Zimbabwe. She is past Director of the OU's Children's Research Centre (2017-2020).  

Liz has worked in Higher Education for 15 years, supporting both initial teaching students and practising teachers in addition to leading the PGCE (PT) course for a number of years. Liz’s specialism is Primary English, and for four years she was the Strategic Consultant on the DfE-funded Everybody Writes project, working closely with both the Book Trust and the National Literacy Trust. Liz is currently on the Executive Committee of UKFIET and is a member of INEE's Gender Task Team.  She is on the panel for UKLA's Brenda Eastwood Award for good practice in diversity and inclusion and is part of UCET's Equities Group. 

Prior to working in HE, Liz was a practising teacher and taught in a number of primary schools in London, Devon, Southampton, and in Malaysia. She held a variety of positions including English Subject Leader, Leading Literacy Teacher, and Assistant Headteacher.  

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