What should I do if my child is excluded from the school?
Your daughter is excluded from her school for making what the school describes as insulting telephone calls to a teacher. You are displeased because you think her offence does not merit such an inconsiderate reprimand.
In cases of exclusion you cannot force the school to take your child back. But, yes, you can always make an appeal. Also, if you think, your daughter has been wrongly accused; you may wish to clear her name even though you do not want her to return to the school.
Appeal to the governors’ discipline committee, which in any case has to meet to consider the exclusion. The committee may uphold the exclusion, overthrow it and reinstate your daughter, or decide that the exclusion was unjustified, but that relationships between the school and the family have broken down to such an extend that it is no one’s interest for the child to stay at the school. The Local Education Authority (LEA) would then find another school for your child.
If the committee upholds the exclusion, you can appeal to an independent appeals panel, which is drawn from local people who are not connected with the school or its LEA. However, please note that if the independent appeal panel finds against you, no one, not even the Secretary of State, can overturn the panel’s decision.
Your plan of action
If you feel that exclusion is unfounded write to the governor saying that you want to appeal. The governors’ discipline committee will offer you a date for a hearing. To prepare for the hearing, note down the ways in which you think the official guidelines have not been followed, and good points about your daughter’s record at school.
If the committee refuses your appeal, you have 15 days to submit it to an independent appeals panel. The panel must hear the appeal within 15 days of receiving it. The panel’s decision is final and binding. If it confirms the exclusion, the Local Education Authority (LEA) has to find an alternative school place for your child, or provide education outside school. In exceptional cases, the panel may adjourn without a decision – for example, if the police are involved.
How does the exclusion process works?
Heads have the right to exclude pupils for a fixed period or permanently. In either case, the parents must be informed without delay of their child’s exclusion. Pupils who are excluded may not enter the school premises. Their behaviour during the exclusion is not the school’s accountability but if they are excluded for a fixed period, they should be set work to do.
- If a pupil is excluded for more than five days in a term, or if the exclusion would result in the pupil missing a public examination, the school must repeat the exclusion to the school governors and the local education authority, as well as the pupil’s parents. A pupil cannot be excluded from the school for more than forty-five days in a year unless the exclusion is permanent.
- Parents can appeal against fixed-period exclusion. The governors’ discipline committee must meet about fixed-term exclusions only if the parents ask to make a representation such as an appeal.
- A head should exclude a pupil permanently only as a last remedy or for a very severe offence. If a school excludes a pupil for misdemeanors such as poor attendance or disruptive behaviour, the head must be able to show that all other possible strategies were tried before exclusion.
- A head can decide to exclude a pupil for a first or single offence if it includes serious actual or threatened violence against another pupil or a member of staff, sexual abuse or assault, supplying an illegal drug, and carrying an offensive weapon.
- The governors’ discipline committee must meet within 15 school days of the exclusion being imposed, whether or not the parents appeal.
Allowing time for investigation
A pupil should not be excluded in the heat of the moment if there is no instant risk to the security of others or to the pupil. The governor must make sure that the episode has been appropriately investigated, and all the evidence has been considered, taking into account legislation on discrimination and the school’s policies and rules. He must also ensure that the pupil has had a chance to give his or her version of events and that the incident was not provoked – for example, by bullying or racial harassment.
Ensuring an appropriate response
The school must inform the police when a pupil is excluded permanently after committing a criminal offence. But the school must weigh up a number of factors before resorting to exclusion. This includes the age and health of the pupil, pressure from parents and peers, how severe the offence is and whether the pupil is likely to repeat it, whether the pupil’s behaviour affects other pupils, whether the offending behaviour took place in school or out (and, if out, whether it had a serious impact on the school), and finally the pupil’s school record.
When exclusion is appropriate
Exclusion should not be used as a punishment for minor incidents (such as failure to do homework or to bring dinner money), poor academic performance, non-attendance or lateness, pregnancy and inappropriate dress or appearance (including hairstyles and wearing jewellery, unless this is an act of defiance and other measures have failed). Further, the pupil should also not be excluded for offences that took place outside school hours, even if serious, unless they affect the school. Punishing pupil’s for their parents’ behaviour (for instance, by extending a fixed-period exclusion until the parents agree to attend a meeting) is also not appropriate.