Schools lack guidance on how to handle pupil exclusions

Guidance on pupil exclusions originally published in December 2014 and set for implementation in January 2015 was pulled from the government webpage in February on the grounds of “issues with process” – but has yet to be replaced 23 months later.

The government has now been urged to develop new guidance handing schools greater statutory responsibility for the futures of pupils they exclude, and warned that an increase in selection could see less detectable “informal exclusions” also rise.

Anne Heavey, policy adviser at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said that schools already had mechanisms for keeping pupils out of lessons – including running extraction lessons.

She also said that grammar schools were more able to reject children with additional needs.

The current 2012 exclusion guidance deals mostly with “formal” permanent or fixed-period exclusions

“Those selective schools are in a position to say this is the brand, this is what they [children] signed up for, so they don’t fit – when it’s really so much more complex than that.”

The current 2012 exclusion guidance deals mostly with “formal” permanent or fixed-period exclusions. It says exclusion can occur only where there has been a serious or persistent breach of behaviour policy, or where the pupil would “seriously harm” the welfare of other pupils.

On informal exclusions, it adds: “‘Informal’ or ‘unofficial’ exclusions, such as sending pupils home ‘to cool off’, are unlawful, regardless of whether they occur with the agreement of parents or carers.”

Figures from 2014-15 show that 3,130 pupils who had an SEND statement or SEN support were permanently excluded from primary and secondary schools, despite strict guidance that punishment must not be more severe in cases where pupils have additional needs.

A Department for Education spokesperson told Schools Week it was planning to “make schools responsible for securing alternative provision for excluded pupils”.

Morris Charlton, a former headteacher of a pupil referral unit, agreed that schools should be expected to ensure the transition out of the school “is the best it can be”.

“If that doesn’t seem to be working, making it a legal responsibility would seem to strengthen that responsibility. But then if illegal exclusions are already happening, how can we be sure even that will work?”

This has not yet become a statutory duty, but was in the last white paper and appears set to be brought forward. The spokesperson added permanent exclusions were “still extremely rare”.

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  1. It is an enormous problem; because there is not an agreed procedure nationally on the handover from a child who is being permanently excluded from a school to education welfare services, I am noting the LAs we work with adopting a ‘Venus de Milo’ approach – i.e. no arms with which to reach out and take hold of the batton. So, whilst national government ask both schools and LAs to worry about children going missing in education, actually locally LAs seem not have the resources to handle in-school year problems because all resources have already been deployed at the start of the year.