Schools should not have a ‘no exclusion’ policy and need to set out mitigations in place if they allow mobile phones during the school day, new guidance proposes.
The Department for Education (DfE) has published a consultation on guidance for behaviour in schools and suspensions and permanent exclusions.
All the changes related to behaviour are for non-statutory guidance. However some of the proposed changes for exclusions would see legislation changed.
Key changes to behaviour guidance:
1. Mobile phone ban U-turn?
Former education secretary Gavin Williamson made lots of headlines over promises to ban mobile phones in schools.
Today’s consultation states instead it is up to headteachers to decide if mobile phones can be used during the school day.
However headteachers who do allow phones should be clear what mitigating measures are in place to minimise these risks and how they will ensure they are effective.
This is because mobiles “introduces complexity and risk, including distraction, disruption, bullying and abuse”, the consultation adds.
It has widely been reported as a U-turn. But while an earlier consultation did seek views on mobile phone bans, it was clear any changes would be to non-statutory guidance so either way they would just be advice.
2. National benchmarks for behaviour
The guidance has been rewritten to “more effectively” support schools. One new feature is the concept of a “national minimum expectation of behaviour benchmarks”.
This expectations align with Ofsted’s ‘good’ criteria for behaviour and attitudes.
There are six expectations listed. They include that all incidents of bullying and discrimination being dealt with quickly and effectively, general and targeted interventions are in place to improve behaviour and ensuring school leaders “visibly and consistently support all staff in managing” behaviour.
3. Anticipate ‘triggers’ for SEND misbehaviour
Proposed guidance states that some misbehaviours are “more likely” to arise from SEND pupils so schools should “anticipate likely triggers” and put in place measures to support these.
Measures could include planned movement breaks for pupils who find it difficult to sit still for long periods and text message reminders to ensure SEND pupils don’t forget equipment.
4. Set out limits for isolation use
The guidance newly defines removal, also known as isolation, as where “a pupil, for disciplinary reasons is required to spend a limited time of out of the classroom at the instruction of a member of staff”.
The measure should allow for the continuation of the pupil’s education in a supervised setting and should be a last resort once other strategies have been attempted.
It can be used to restore order or enable disruptive pupils to be taken to a place where education can be continued in a managed environment.
Schools’ behaviour policy must outline the length of time appropriate for a pupil to be in isolation and “pupils should not be removed from classrooms for prolonged periods of time without the explicit agreement of the headteacher”.
There should be a clear process for reintegration for any pupil in removal.
Schools Week previously revealed some secondary schools were placing pupils in isolation for up to five days at time.
The consultation closes on March 31.
Key proposals on suspension and exclusion guidance:
1. Don’t adopt ‘no exclusion’ policies
The new guidance says schools and local authorities “should not adopt a ‘no exclusion’ policy as an end in itself”.
This can “lead to perverse incentives to schools not to exclude even when exclusion is the only real way to make sure an excluded pupil can get the support they need”.
The guidance says that in some cases, a ‘no exclusion’ policy can “even present safeguarding issues and expose staff and pupils to unreasonable risks”.
“Instead, schools and local authorities should work to create environments where school exclusions are not necessary because pupil behaviour does not require it.”
2. No more rescinding exclusions and suspension cap reduced
The DfE has proposed that headteachers should no longer be able to end a suspension or permanent exclusion that has already begun earlier than the end date originally fixed.
The practice, known as withdrawing or rescinding, will be dropped to ensure that “suspensions and permanent exclusions are always reviewed by the governing board”.
If accepted, this proposal will be reflected in statutory guidance.
The current limit on the total number of days a pupil can be suspended in a single year is 45, but the consultation also seeks views on the impact of this being reduced.
3. Head’s duty to inform third parties expanded
Following recommendations from the Timpson exclusions review, headteachers would have to now inform relevant professionals such as social workers and virtual school heads (VSHs) of a suspension or exclusion “without delay, and no later than three days after their decision”.
This change is to allow social workers and VSHs to “raise any concerns and consider whether this decision would mean the level of risk to a child may change”.
Parents must also be notified within this period. These changes would also be statutory.
4. Remote meetings can be moved online
The final statutory change would see remote meetings for governing bodies and independent review panels introduced as a permanent option to enable schools to meet statutory timescales sooner.
This comes after meetings were conducted online during the pandemic.
5. Boards told to watch out for ‘timing of pupil moves’
The new guidance would also highlight the need for governing boards to “carefully consider the level of pupils moves” and characteristics of excluded pupils to ensure the sanction is “only used as a last resort”.
They are told to consider the timing of moves and permanent exclusions as well as interventions in place to support at-risk pupils.
6. Managed move expectations set out
Under proposals, a managed move should only be offered as a permanent transfer, and only when the pupil has been attending the new school under an off-site direction.
A review of the direction must have established the pupil has “settled well into the school” and should remain there permanently.
A managed move is a formal agreement between two schools, a child and their parents, which allows a child at risk of permanent exclusion to transfer to another school.