Exclusions – The facts!

Exclusions are the most serious consequence that a school can issue to a child in this country. This blog post aims to highlight some of the key points when considering exclusions as well as looking at the balance of when and when not to exclude as well as the implications for excluding children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). As well as this, I will offer my own thoughts and experience on exclusions. If you want to read further on exclusions, I would suggest reading DfE: Exclusion from maintained schools, Academies and pupil referral units in England.

The power to exclude

Schools can choose to exclude children on the grounds of disciplinary only. They cannot exclude for any reason and infact, they must protect children and make sure that all children are treated fairly and not excluded on the grounds of things such as disability or race. Only the Head of a school or academy can exclude a child (that includes Executive Heads) and no-one else. Many people can contribute towards the child and the evidence but it is only the Head who can authorise this and therefore they must be the one who signs the letter. The decision to exclude must be legal, reasonable and fair.

Types of exclusion

There are two types of exclusion. One is a fixed term exclusion and one is a permanent exclusion. In a fixed term exclusion, the Head decides how many days that the child is going to be excluded for before letting them back into school. The parents are informed in writing of the reasons why the exclusion has happened and when they are allowed back into school. A Head can exclude a child for up to a collective amount of 45 days per academic year. After this, as it would be fair to say that fixed term exclusions are not working, the only option left is a permanent exclusion. In my experience, most fixed term exclusions are up to 5 days long. If a Head issues a fixed term exclusion that is longer than 5 days, then the local authority have to provide education from the 6th school day onwards. This, to be honest, is a pain because it means the child accessing another provision before re-integrating back into their normal mainstream school. It is for this reason that most fixed term exclusions are only up to 5 days in one period. While a child is excluded, it is the parents duty to make sure that they are not in a public place without reasonable justification. Failure to do so could end up in them being fined. It is also worth noting that schools have to set work to be marked for the first five days (or for the number of days if the exclusion is less than five).

Permanent exclusions are exactly that. They are permanent and from that point on, the child does not attend the mainstream school anymore. Once a child is permanently excluded, and the Head has written to the parent to say so, the Governors of the school have to meet within 15 working days to consider the exclusion. They will look at all of the paperwork that the school have got to justify the exclusion. Schools can decide to permanently exclude a child for one of two reasons, providing that this action is the last resort:

  • if a child persistently breaks the schools published behaviour policy (this is why it is important for schools to have their up to date behaviour policy available on their website)
  • for seriously breaching the schools published behaviour policy

After a child has been issued a permanent exclusion, the first 5 days work like a fixed term exclusion but by the 6th school day, the local authority have to put in place a suitable education package for the child until they can find a new school. In my city, and most places, the child would begin to be educated from the 6th day at a pupil referral unit. It is work noting that a child can also be permanently excluded from a pupil referral unit or other specialist provisions such as EBD schools. The local authority would still have a duty to offer an education package to these children (although by this point, there aren’t many choices). Also, the head has the power to exclude a child on a fixed term basis and then convert the exclusion to a permanent one. They just have to write to the parent stating this and simply offer the additional evidence as to why this is the case. In my experience, I have seen schools offer fixed term exclusions and while the child is excluded, which gives them chance to investigate further and if the circumstances warrant a permanent exclusion, they write to the parents stating so.

It is also worth noting that when establishing facts about the exclusion, the Head must apply the civil standard of proof – ‘on the balance of probabilities’ it is more likely than not that the fact is true, rather than the criminal standard of ‘beyond all reasonable doubt.’

The Governing Body and the appeals process

As previously mentioned, the Governing Body have to meet within 15 working days to consider a permanent exclusion. They will look at all of the paperwork that the school have got to justify the exclusion. Parents and carers have a right to attend the meeting and can do su on their own, with representation or with a friend. They are allowed to put their reasons across should they wish to convince the panel that the decision by the Head is the wrong one. After the meeting, the representative from the school and the parents must leave the room to give time for the Governors to consider and when they have made their decision, they can invite both parties back in and they inform them of their decision. Their decision is final at this stage and the school or parents cannot say anymore to convince them at this point. They will either choose to uphold the Head’s decision or to re-instate the child. Parents do not have to attend this meeting but the meeting still happens whether they are there or not.

If a parent is not happy with the decision and they wish to do so, they can appeal the decision. They must write to the governing body to explain that they wish to appeal within 15 school days since the date that the Governing Body decided to uphold the Heads decision. If an application happens outside of this time frame, the Academy (or LA if it is an LA maintained school) must reject the application. If a parent applies for an appeal, it is the LA or the the MAT’s job to organise and arrange an independent review panel to consider the decision of the Governing Body. The Independent Review Panel then consider the Governing Bodies decision to uphold the permanent exclusion. Parents can attend this meeting too and if they want an SEN expert, even though there may or may not be an identified SEN, and the school or Academy will pay for this. The IRP then follow a similar process that the Governors did. They can decide to quash the Governing Bodies decision and get them to look again or uphold it. If they uphold it, then this decision is final and binding to everyone involved. There is nothing left at this stage. That is it.

SEND and exclusions

Behaviour is generally a form of communication. Negative behaviour occurs when then communication breaks down. If a child has had no breakfast and argued with their parents on the way into school, then it would be fair to say that the reason they told someone to shut up and shoved them out of the way in the cloakroom could be attributed to the mornings events. This is not a socially acceptable way of behaving but it is understandable. We would strive to teach children how to express themselves in more appropriate ways and communicate more effectively so that we can help them to manage their behaviour. Some children with SEND have greater difficulties than most in communicating their needs so if they experienced the same thing on the way to school as my example at the start of this paragraph, they would struggle more so.

Some children demonstrate poor behaviour because of external factors (negative things happening to them, failure to communicate effectively, failure to manage their emotions, choice) and we have to find a way to support them with this. Some children with SEND behave poorly but some of their behaviour is drive by their special need. When I worked in a PRU, I had two particular children. Both of them made loud noises in class. One of the children, Child A, had no identified special needs and chose to do this; something which he said he did because it was funny. Child B had ADHD.  They also did this in their mainstream schools. The behaviour was disruptive to the learning of other people but the Child B struggled to control this due to his SEND. Child A could control this and because of this, amongst other things, he was excluded permanently by his mainstream for repeatedly breaching the schools behaviour policy. Child B, although he did this as well, was permanently excluded for seriously assaulting a member of staff.

Both children presented ‘some’ similar behaviours. The school who permanently excluded Child A were well within their right. Child B however could not help this behaviour to a large extent and it would not have been a fair or reasonable thing to do to exclude him on this basis because it was his ADHD which was driving this and not something that they themselves could readily help.

Closing thoughts

Exclusions have such a large impact on families and Heads must only exclude if it is seriously the last resort. There are times though when there is no other choice  and schools can do no more. Sometimes a clean break is exactly what is needed. I know many children who have been permanently excluded and then managed to successfully turn it around in another mainstream. Behaviour can change.

 

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Posted on September 11, 2016, in behaviour, communication, Education, exclusion, fixed-term, permanent exclusion and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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