Exclusion From School And What To Do Next
What are the different types of exclusion?
Fixed term exclusion is a removal from the school setting for a set amount of time. A pupil may be excluded on one or more occasions up to a maximum of 45 days in a single academic year. During a fixed term exclusion, if further evidence is brought forward or in exceptional circumstances, the exclusion can be converted to a permanent exclusion.
Permanent exclusion is when a child is completely removed from the school list and is unable to return to the school. However, the child’s name is not removed from the Admissions Register until the outcome of an independent review panel is decided- if the parents decide that this is required. The Independent Review Panel can uphold, quash or recommend that a decision is revisited, but cannot force a pupil to be reinstated by the school.
Informal exclusion is the term used when a child is sent off the school premises for a cooling off period, without a formal record of the time off-site. Even if the parents or carers agree to the cooling off period, this exclusion is unlawful and should, under no circumstances, be entered into by the school.
What circumstances may lead to a child being excluded?
To be excluded from school, the sanction must be based on disciplinary grounds. The decision to exclude must be lawful, rational, reasonable, fair and proportionate to the behaviour which is being examined. The behaviour in question can be within or outside of the school grounds and school hours. The decision to exclude should only be taken in response to a serious breach or persistent breach of the behaviour policy as well as in a situation where allowing the pupil to stay in school would seriously harm the education or welfare of the pupil or others in the school. As in all law, the school must not discriminate against pupils in terms of their race, sex, religion, disabilities, cultural beliefs, sexual discrimination, due to pregnancy, maternity or their gender reassignment.
It is not lawful to exclude pupils on academic ability or attainment, for the actions of the pupils’ parents, or for not meeting specific conditions requested of a child prior to being reinstated after a fixed exclusion. However, a head teacher may lawfully exclude a pupil who continuously fails to follow academic instructions, where the pupil fails to complete behavioural sanctions, or if there are persistent breaches of the behavioural policy even if the incident in isolation would not necessarily lead to an exclusion and the action in question is a part of a wider pattern of concerning behaviour.
What contributing factors should be considered before resorting to exclusion?
Contributing factors leading to the child’s behaviour must be taken into consideration and the pupil must be given the opportunity to present their case before a decision is made. Contributing factors could include; serious domestic issues including abuse, bereavement, where there are mental health issues, or the child is being bullied.
All guidance for managing disruptive and challenging behaviour is underpinned by the basic fundamental principle that early intervention should be used to address underlying causes of disruptive behaviour. This intervention may include an assessment of the support in place for the child and the engagement of a multi-agency approach to pupils who demonstrate the persistent disruptive behaviour. It should also be questioned at the stage of early intervention, or where a pupil is facing multiple short or fixed term exclusions, whether the sanction has any effectiveness, or is a different road is required.
What Alternatives Exist?
Alternative Education Solutions
Where exclusion sanctions are not making a difference to the behavioural pattern or following an early intervention action review, schools have the ability and option to direct a pupil to off-site education to improve their behaviour, break a cycle or address an underlying issue. If a school decides that off-site options are preferred for a pupil, the school clear information for the parents about the placement must be given, including why, when, where and how the review process will work. The placement must then be regularly reviewed with the review process involving the parents at every step.
Voluntary managed moves are an option if fixed term exclusion is not working for a child, or if it is perceived as a viable alternative to giving a child a fresh start at a new school as an alternative to exclusion. Managed moves should not be used as a response to a school threatening expulsion and must have the consent of all parties involved. Managed moves are usually subject to a trial period. Should this not be an agreeable solution for all parties involved, or if the behaviour in question continues, the pupil may be returned to the original school.
What about SEN or ‘looked after’ children?
Pupils with statements of Special Educational Needs (SEN) and those with an Education, Health & Care Plan (EHCP) and ‘looked after’ children- those in care or adopted environments, are particularly vulnerable to exclusion. Wherever possible, the school should avoid the permanent exclusion of children with such statements or that are ‘looked after’ working, instead, closely with Local Authorities and specialist groups who can support the school and the children through behavioural issues. Early intervention in these situations is vital to engage multiple agencies, consider alternative educational placements part-time or consider an early annual review, interim or emergency review.
What is the procedure for excluding a pupil?
As soon as a decision is made to exclude a pupil, the parents must be immediately informed by telephone or in person, followed straight away by letter. E-mail may be sent if prior consent has been given for this, but face-to-face notification should be the first option to allow initial questions or concerns to be heard. If a school requires time to investigate a situation, a pupil may be excluded on a fixed term basis until the outcome of an investigation has been given. At that time, the exclusion may be extended in term or made permanent. This decision must be confirmed through a new exclusion notice to the parents, without delay.
Obligations of a parent during the expulsion
During the first 5 days of an exclusion, the parents of a school-age child must ensure that they are not present in a public place during school hours- except in situations of reasonable justification, such as a doctor’s appointment. If the parent fails in this duty, they may be fined £60. In addition, if the school or Local Authority believe that the parents could better influence the behaviour of the child, a Parenting Contract may be offered. A Parenting Contract is an agreement between the school and the parents that they will both support the child in improving their behaviour.
For an expulsion longer than 5 days, the governing body of the school must arrange suitable full-time education for pupils of compulsory school age, beginning no later than the 6th day of the exclusion. This requirement is irrespective of the exclusion being fixed term or permanent. Where the exclusion involves a child with a statement of SEN or EHCP, the alternative education solution must be sought and identified in consultation with the child’s parents or carers.
In order to reduce the disruption to the excluded pupil’s education, it makes good sense to begin the provision of alternative education solutions as early as possible.
The role of the school governing body in exclusion
The school’s governors must consider a parent’s appeal against an exclusion. The extent of the duty of consideration depends upon the length and nature of the exclusion. The governing body of the school must consider the reinstatement of a pupil within 15 days of the receipt of the exclusion order if the exclusion is permanent, if the fixed term exclusion takes the pupil over 15 days exclusion within one term or if the exclusion will result in the pupil missing public examination or national curriculum tests. Where the exclusion would result in a public examination being missed, the governing body must consider the reinstatement of the individual before the date of the examination. If the governing body is unable to meet at a suitable date, in this circumstance, the chair of governors may consider a reinstatement individually.
Where a child is excluded for more than 5 days, but the total number of excluded days in a single term remains below 15, the governing body must review the exclusion within 50 days of the exclusion notice. Although this may not affect the actual exclusion, which will have passed by that point, should the governing body uphold the appeal, a note may be added to the child’s records to state that the decision to exclude was overturned.
The Governing Body meeting
At the governing body meeting, the parents and head teacher must be invited to represent the child and the school in reviewing the exclusion order. If the exclusion is from a Pupil Referral Unit, the Local Authority must also be invited to make representation. Prior to the meeting, the governing body must ask for written statements from all concerned and circulate these to all stakeholders a minimum of 5 days before the meeting. Parents and pupils must be given the right to be accompanied by a friend or representative and there must be steps identified to enable and encourage the excluded pupil to attend the hearing to speak on their own behalf- considering age and understanding and provide other means for participation should attendance not be possible.
During the meeting, consideration must be given to the interests and circumstances of the excluded pupil, the circumstances that led to the exclusion and the interests of the other pupils and people working and attending the school. In contentious situations, the ‘balance of probabilities’ that it is more likely than not that an action or behaviour in question did take place, is enough to carry a decision. The decision of the governing body may be to uphold the team teacher’s decision or to overturn it, reinstating the pupil immediately or on a set date.
At this point, parents have the right to apply for an Independent Review Panel, should they believe that the exclusion has been made (and upheld), on the grounds of discrimination. The claim must be lodged within 6 months of the original exclusion date.
The Independent Review Panel
An application for an Independent Review Panel must be received within 15 days of the governing body review. The application may be made even if parents did not attend the governing body review meeting, but it must be made in writing and be supported by evidence. New evidence may be given and considered for review, but in a verdict to overturn the governing body’s decision only evidence available to that group at the time of the meeting may be heard.
At this review, the panel made up of; a lay member as the chair, one or two serving governors, or governors who have served for at least 2 consecutive months in a 12-month period plus one or two head teachers who have been in the position within the last 5 years.
The decision of the panel may be; to uphold the exclusion, to recommend that the governing body reconsider their decision or to quash the decision, insisting that the governing body review the case again. In order to quash the decision, the review panel must be convinced that there was; illegality involved with the decision, in that the governing body acted outside of the scope of their legal powers, irrationality, where the body relied on irrelevant points or acted unreasonably or that there was procedural impropriety that was unfair or flawed the process meaning that justice was not served. The decision of the panel is final and there is no further right of appeal. If the belief by the parents is that the Independent Panel was unfairly run, there may be a case for maladministration around the management of the panel. Complaints should be directed to the Local Government Ombudsman for a community, voluntary controlled, voluntary aided or foundation schools or to the Secretary of State, to pass to the Education Funding Agency for Academies and Trusts.