Handling your child's exclusion from school
Normally, parents will receive a phone call from the school outlining the reasons for the exclusion and how long the exclusion will last for. Additionally, the school should inform parents of how they intend to continue to provide education whilst not allowed on the school premises.
For the first 5 days, this should be in the form of homework that equates to atleast a minimum of 1 hour per day. Clearly, this does not seem sufficient to maintain your child’s education, so ensure that you substitute any education provision by providing your child with access to educational resources. These can be found either through on-line websites such as BBC Bitesize, or through age appropriate learning resources bought from good bookstores (try WHSmith). I know this isn’t ideal and can be expensive and seem like a minefield as a non-educational professional parent, however, if extra resources are needed this is of paramount importance for your child’s continued education. You can challenge the lack of provision of education either through your Local Authority (LA), OFSTED, or at a Governor’s hearing at a later date after you have sourced the material needed for your child.
Parents must receive a letter detailing the exclusion and this must be received within 48 hours, although this is normally delivered with your child when they return home, or by courier the next day. Both options should be explored by your school. Failure to notify you in a letter is unlawful, so to is failing to provide the correct details in the letter, so check them carefully, to ensure you are fully aware of how your child will be educated.
At the earliest possible opportunity, ask your child to write a written witness statement. The school should have done this, however, all to often this is not the case and it would be of benefit to you to have it written down to reflect on in due course. Once you have reviewed your child’s written statement and had a chance to reflect on its contents, calmly ask any clarifying details that you feel would paint a clearer picture of what happened in your own minds eye. Be aware that the exclusion is as distressing for your child as it is for you, if not more so. Therefore, use your judgement wisely.
Once you have received the letter from the school, parents can then follow the routes of appeal that must be detailed in the letter. If the exclusion is for 5 days or less from a secondary school, the governors do not have to meet, however, in a primary school they must.
Nonetheless, if the exclusion is for 15 school days or less and you wish to appeal, a letter needs to be sent to the:
Head teacher; Clerk to the Governors; and Chair of the Governors.
The request should ask for:
a Governor’s hearing;a copy of the child’s full school files;a copy of the child’s full attendance records;copies of the exclusion policy;copies of the Special Educational Needs (SEN) policy (if applicable);copies of the behaviour policy; andcopies of the race equality policy (if applicable).
If the exclusion is for 15 days or more or permanent, then the Governors must invite you to attend a Governor’s hearing. In this instance, the same requests as above need to be put in writing to the same people as above.
If it is a permanent exclusion and the Governors agree to uphold the exclusion, then the Local Authority will be informed and they will send out a letter and forms, informing parents of their opportunity to request an Independent Appeal Panel (IAP) hearing (unless it is an academy who have chosen to conduct IAPs themselves). This is normally held at the town hall of the excluding borough (an academy holding IAPs themselves can hold the IAP where they decide to). When requesting an IAP reasons will need to be provided to the LA (or academy) which is why you need to request the information at the Governor’s hearing stage to ensure you have all the evidence to appeal the decision.
You need to familiarise yourself with the school policies to check that they are up to date, have been reviewed within the stated timescales and that they conform to the appropriate legislation. Where a school has not mentioned within their exclusion policy how they have measured the impact of exclusions on over-represented groups creating disproportionate exclusion figures, then their policies are not adequate to comply with the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 and subsequent Equality Act 2010. So then you will need to check the race equality policy to see whether this too is thorough enough. The SEN policy and behaviour policy will also inform you of the procedures the school follows prior to an exclusion.
You need to look through your child’s school records / files and check what provision has been put in place prior to the exclusion. An exclusion should be a last resort. You need to check to see if the child is on the Special Educational Needs (SEN) register in the school. This could be at (1) School Action, (2) School Action Plus or (3) your child has a statement of SEN. The higher up the child is on the register the more support which needs to be put in place. You are also checking that the school has kept the records up to date and that there are no gaps. This is a requirement in law. They should have all the information since primary school, but will not have anything that would bring about issues of child protection. You are also looking for evidence to justify the exclusion. You may not receive the files in time, but if flaws are found you can then request a Governors' Complaints Committee hearing to raise the issues. Check the school’s complaints procedures, and request a hearing if you have found substantial mistakes in the files. The school has 15 school days upon receipt of your written request to provide you with a copy of the school records, as stipulated under the Data Protection Act 1998.
You need to check the attendance register for incorrect markings. On the day the child was excluded, were they sent home during the school day? Has this been recorded as an exclusion? If not recorded as one then what is it recorded as? This could be an unofficial exclusion which head teachers describe as a ‘cooling off’ period. There is no basis in law for this. There is no minimum amount of time that the school can send the child home without excluding formally. If a child is sent home in the afternoon this should be recorded as a half day exclusion. It is also worth checking for any markings which have ‘B’. This stands for educated off site. This means that alternative provision is being provided for the child and that they are being supervised by a qualified adult. If the child is only receiving homework when excluded and at home, the exclusion should be recorded as ‘E’. If the child is on a part time timetable then it should be recorded as ‘C’, other authorised circumstances. A part time time-table should only be in place to reintegrate children and this will normally only be for a couple of weeks. If the child attends alternative provision it may also be recorded as ‘D’, dual registration. However the child has to attend the provision to be marked as this.
Frequently Asked Questions
What questions should be asked of the head teacher and governors at a Governors' hearing and at Independent Appeal Panel? What should an appeal consist of?
You need to find out what alternatives to exclusion the Head teacher considered before his/her decision to exclude. Was a thorough investigation carried out? Do statements have dates and signatures, if not why not? When statements are cross referenced do they concur? What support have the school put in place prior to the exclusion? Use the paragraphs in the guidance on exclusion to help you ask questions as to whether procedures within the guidance were followed. Use the guidance to put your appeal together and refer to relevant paragraphs, quoting them and pointing out where procedures weren’t followed.
My son has been sent home on a number of occasions and the school hasn’t told me why or when he is due to return to school. Can they do that?
No. Formal exclusion is the only legal method of removal. Informal or unofficial exclusions are illegal. Where a pupil is sent home for disciplinary reasons for part of a school day and action hasn’t been taken to exclude the pupil, the school is breaking the law. The relevant regulations do not state a minimum length of exclusion. In every instance where a pupil is sent home for disciplinary reasons, Head teachers must formally record this as an exclusion. Otherwise they must keep your child at school and provide them with a suitable full-time education suitable to their age, aptitude, ability and any special educational needs that they may have.
The school has told me that they are extending my son’s five day exclusion to 7 days as the member of staff who would be attending his reintegration meeting is unavailable on that day. Are they allowed to do this?
No. The school can only extend the length of an exclusion in exceptional circumstances, possibly where an investigation into the incident which lead to the exclusion needs more time to be investigated.
The school has not provided any work for my daughter whilst she has been excluded for 5 days. What can I do?
Ring the school and inform them that your child is entitled to a full-time education which for the first 5 days of exclusion is at home, with work set by the school, sufficient to their age, ability and aptitude and any special educational needs that they may have. If you can’t get through on the phone then visit the school and try to pick up some work for them. Don't wait for the school to provide work, access online resources through BBC Bitesize or other age related websites that will help with the national curriculum level. Additionally, get yourself down to WHSmith and browse the age related material that will provide a valuable educational resource to your child. If no work is forthcoming you can request a copy of the schools complaints procedures and follow the appropriate steps to raise the issues that you are rightly concerned about. After all, you are paying taxes to your government and therefore your school, to provide an education that your child is entitled to.
No matter what support the school has put in place for my son, he still keeps getting excluded. What else can I do?
If the support isn’t working then other kinds of support networks need to be found. If they have been exhausted then has the school asked for a statutory assessment from the home Local Authority? Has an Educational Psychologist assessed your child? Have they suffered some other form of trouble in their life which could be aided by counseling? Do they just need a fresh start in a new school, and if so would you consider a managed move? There are a number of alternatives to exclusion that need exploring and you should work with your school in identifying these. Remember there are always solutions to the issues that your child faces.