Some school exclusions are illegal – report


According to a report by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), schools in England that exclude pupils by unofficial means are "acting illegally or unscrupulously".

In its report No Excuses: A review of educational exclusion, the think-tank said that some schools encourage parents to remove difficult children, avoiding official exclusions but providing no support.

The CSJ report also stated that parents who refuse all help with disruptive children should have their benefits cut – a measure already floated by the Prime Minister.

While the government insists it is working to improve education for excluded pupils , the CSJ found that "some schools are taking an out of sight, out of mind approach to difficult pupils, getting bad behaviour off their hands".

The CSJ report was based on interviews with over 100 heads, teachers, parents, pupils, local authority, voluntary and private sector workers, academics and other professionals.

Calling for more transparency in school exclusions, it said that in some schools an inaccurate picture of exclusions is painted by official figures.

It added that some schools are "failing to comply with their legal obligations" or are "carrying out unofficial illegal exclusions". Practices include:

  • Encouraging parents to voluntarily withdraw their children from school, warning that the child would otherwise be permanently excluded, when a school with evidence for excluding a child has an obligation to pursue formal exclusion
  • Using part-time schooling arrangements (which are allowed for children who have been ill or are returning after exclusion) as an alternative to permanent exclusion, when such measures are meant to be short-term
  • Sending pupils out of school for a "cooling off" period, instead of using a formal short-term exclusion – an illegal measure, according to statutory guidance
  • Using a school's powers to refer a pupil to other provision, such as off-site vocational training, as an alternative to exclusion, when the guidance says it should not be used for this purpose

CSJ chief executive Gavin Poole said: "In some cases there is a core of parents simply refusing to engage with the school and in their child's education. Parents have to face up to the responsibility of parenting."

The report praised some schools for providing extra support for disruptive pupils, finding shocking accounts of abuse and neglect which lead to poor behaviour. It called for early student help before their problems became serious.

The report also welcomed government plans to pilot a system in which schools are made responsible for the funding and commissioning of provision for excluded pupils, and for their exam results.

But it warned that if targets for reducing exclusions were maintained, the system could inadvertently lead to unofficial exclusions.

Imogen Jolley, Head of Education and Community Care at Simpson Millar LLP, said there was a legal dimension to school exclusions. "Over the years we have found that a significant number of schools adopt unlawful policies in order to meet exclusion reduction targets. Such steps can mean that parents and pupils are denied the remedies and provision available to children who have been formally excluded. While each case will need careful assessment to decide on the right approach for the particular case, parents need to know what the correct legal position is so that the correct decisions can be taken."

"In some cases we may push for a formal exclusion so that the parent has a right of appeal, ultimately to an independent panel, whereas in others we may work with the schools and parents to get additional special needs provision so that the pupil can remain in their current school without problem."

"Pupils with special educational needs are 7 times more likely to be excluded or out of school than those who do not have special needs. "

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