7 Things You Can Do If Your Child Is Excluded From School
The Law Of… Battling Unfair School Exclusions
It's no secret that school exclusions are on the rise. From allegations of bad behaviour to informal exclusions, schools are finding different ways of excluding students including some that they don't necessarily want to keep.
Bryan Nott, Director of Personal Legal Services, shares 7 tips on what you can do if your child has been unfairly excluded from school.
What Do The Statistics Say?
Data on school exclusions from the Department for Education paints a bleak picture:
- Permanent exclusions in state-funded primary, secondary and special schools has shot up from 5,795 in 2014/15 to 6,685 in 2015/16
- 81% of permanent exclusions were in secondary schools
- Fixed period exclusions (when a child is excluded from school for a certain amount of time) also rose from 302,975 in 2014/15 to 339,360 in 2015/16
- Children with special educational needs (SEN) made up almost half of permanent and fixed exclusions
What Tactics Do Schools Use To Unlawfully Exclude A Student?
By law, schools can only exclude children on the grounds of behavioural problems and the decision is made by the headteacher.
But, with increasing pressure to 'get results' some schools want to remove children in circumstances where there isn't a sufficient reason to permanently exclude them. This means that they look for other grounds on which a student can be excluded.
We have even come across schools that have a sixth fewer children in year 11 than they have in year 7 because they've somehow managed to exclude them over the years.
Knowing exactly which methods schools use to exclude students is crucial for parents so that you can take action if your child is being targeted.
Some common tactics include:
- Putting pressure on parents to withdraw their children from school, and threatening to exclude them if they don’t remove them
- Keeping a child in isolation until their parents agree to move them to another school
- Informally excluding a child with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) because the school says it can no longer meet the child’s needs
- Straightforward, unlawful exclusions where a child is excluded without any paperwork being provided (and they're told, for example, "I don't want to see you at school again")
- Excluding a student for reasons relating to their academic performance, which is unlawful – the worst example we came across involved pro forma letters by which children were excluded when their academic performance did not improve.
7 Ways Of Dealing With A School Exclusion
Here's what you can do if your child has been excluded from school:
- Challenge the decision – one of the first things you can do is to ask the governing body at the school to overturn the decision if your child has been excluded for over 5 days and/or the exclusion means they'll miss an exam. The governors won't be able to change a decision if your child has been excluded for less than 5 days, but it's still useful to contact them.
- Ask for an independent review if your child was permanently excluded – if you don't have any luck with the governors, your next option would be to ask for an independent review by your local council or academy trust.
- Speak to your child about counselling if they're struggling – being excluded from school is upsetting and traumatising for children. If you notice your child isn't coping well, you could ask whether they'd like to speak to a counsellor.
- Ask whether your child's SEND were taken into account – if your child has SEND and you believe that their school didn't consider their needs when making a decision, it's a good idea to get some advice from an Education Law expert. It's usually the case that excluded students with SEND haven't been given the right level of support, which can cause problems. Students with a disability can also expect schools to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate that disability and failure to do so can be grounds for challenging a decision to exclude.
- Consider finding a new school – you could contact other local schools to find out whether they have any available spaces. But, bear in mind that if your child is of compulsory school age your Local Authority must provide them with education, which should normally be full-time in school. Alternatively, some people might look into private schools.
- Get legal advice – if the governors won't change their minds or you're unsuccessful in getting a review, then it's best to speak to a legal professional about what action you can take.
- Find out whether you can make a claim – if you find out that your child was excluded because their school didn't want their grades to affect its performance in the league tables, you might be able to make a claim for compensation. Sometimes, there's patterns of behaviour in how and when schools exclude students. For example, some students are excluded before they go on exam leave or schools exclude students at certain times of the year (such as July and August). When this happens, there's the danger of students not being able to find a new school before the start of the next academic term and this can lead to them missing out on their education.
How Can Simpson Millar Help Me?
Having to find another school at short notice can be stressful and difficult for parents, especially since some parents can end up paying hefty fees for private schools, particularly A level re-take colleges. Losing a place at school is devastating for children and their families, and can cause a lot of emotional trauma as well as extra inconvenience.
It's unlawful for schools to exclude students on the basis of their academic performance, and your child's education shouldn't have to suffer because of bad decision-making.
If your child has been excluded because their grades aren't meeting the school's expectations, you might be able to make a claim for compensation – especially if you've lost out financially as a result.
As specialists in Education Law, our team has successfully helped many families get the best outcome for their children. To find out whether you can make a claim, speak to our experts on 0808 129 3320 or fill out an enquiry form and we'll get in touch with you.