What can I do if my child is excluded (or at risk of exclusion)?
If your child has been excluded, please see the expert advice available from Sutton’s Inclusion Coordinator found here:
If your child is regularly receiving exclusions from school and you believe their behaviour causing this is due to their Special Education Needs or Disabilities (or you are concerned their SEND needs have not yet been properly diagnosed), SIASS can support you in meeting with the school and coordinating with Sutton’s Inclusion team to come up with a plan to prevent a permanent exclusion.
What is exclusion?
Exclusion is the formal sending home of a pupil from school for disciplinary reasons. An exclusion can be fixed term (temporary) or permanent. A pupil is not allowed in school while they are excluded.
All state-funded mainstream and special schools, including academies and free schools, must follow the government statutory guidance on Exclusions (find the link below).
The information here is about exclusions from state-funded schools and pupil referral units. Independent schools do not have to follow this guidance, and they will have their own exclusion procedures.
Schools must have a behaviour policy setting out the school rules and the consequences if pupils break the rules, including the circumstances where exclusion might be used. In some situations, a pupil can be excluded for behaviour outside school. Exclusion may be for a series of incidents, often described as “persistent disruptive behaviour”, or for more serious “one off” incidents.
Only Head Teachers can exclude children from school and must only do so for disciplinary reasons.
Unofficial or informal exclusions (like sending a child home to ‘cool off’ or reducing a child’s timetable on the basis that the school can’t meet the child’s needs) are unlawful – even if parents have given permission for their child to go home.
There are two types of exclusion, fixed term and permanent.
In what circumstances can a child be excluded?
A pupil must only be excluded on disciplinary grounds. The decision to exclude must be:
The behaviour of pupils outside of school can be considered as grounds for exclusion. The school’s behaviour policy will set out when a pupil’s behaviour outside of school premises may lead to disciplinary sanctions.
A decision to exclude a pupil permanently should only be taken:
“in response to a serious breach or persistent breaches of the school’s behaviour policy; and where allowing the pupil to remain in school would seriously harm the education or welfare of the pupil or others in the school”.
Under the Equality Act 2010, it is unlawful to exclude or to increase the severity of an exclusion for a non-disciplinary reason. For example, it would be unlawful to exclude a pupil simply because they have additional needs or a disability that the school feels it is unable to meet. It would also be unlawful to exclude for a reason such as:
- Academic attainment / ability;
- The action of a pupil’s parents;
- The failure of a pupil to meet specific conditions before they are reinstated such as attend a reintegration meeting.
A fixed period exclusion is where the child is temporarily removed from school. Children can only be removed for a maximum of 45 days a year, even if they have changed schools within that year.
Permanent exclusion means the child has been expelled from the school. It is the local authority’s duty to provide alternative, suitable, full- time education no later than the 6th school day after the exclusion. This applies to all children of compulsory school age resident in the local authority area, whatever type of school they attend.
The case for reinstating an excluded pupil
Within 15 days of receiving notice of the exclusion, the governing body must consider the reinstatement of the pupil if:
- The exclusion is permanent;
- It is a fixed period exclusion which would bring the pupil’s total number of school days of exclusion to more than 15 in a term; or
- It would result in a pupil missing a public examination or National Curriculum test.
When making this decision, the governing body must arrange a meeting to discuss the exclusion, with the parents, the headteacher/principal and a representative from the Local Authority (LA), at a convenient time for all parties. The governing body must then either uphold the exclusion or direct that the pupil be reinstated immediately/on a particular date.
Challenging a decision to exclude a child
There are two main courses of action that parents can take to challenge a decision to exclude a pupil. Firstly, parents can request that the LA/academy set up an Independent Review Panel (IRP) to review the decision. Parents must lodge their review application within 15 school days of receiving the decision. The LA must then arrange a mutually convenient date for the all parties to meet before a three to five person panel, which must include members with experience of being a school governor or headteacher.
Alternatively, if parents consider their child to have experienced discrimination, they may make a claim to the SEND First-tier Tribunal for disability discrimination. See government guidance here: Guidance for how to claim disability discrimination