Calls have been made by the group “Justice” to overhaul the rules surrounding school exclusions amid concerns that too many schools do not completely understand their legal duties.
Further comment has been made that there are “serious weaknesses” in the education system that can unlawfully exclude a disproportionate numbers of pupils with special educational needs (SEN).
The Justice report commented that schools may not understand their duties under the Equality Act 2010 which requires them to make reasonable adjustments to school policies (including zero tolerance behaviour policies) that may otherwise put children at a disadvantage.
The report raises concerns about the number of permanent exclusions in England. There were 7,905 permanent exclusions in England in 2017-18, with estimates of thousands more informally excluded via “managed moves” to alternative schools, or “off-rolled”.
The titled “Challenging School Exclusions” report highlighted how a permanent exclusion can have a devastating impact on a pupil’s life. In some cases leading to criminal convictions.
Parents can take matters to an independent review, but their powers are limited. If the review finds in favour of a child the panel can direct a school to reconsider the exclusion. It does not have the power to force a school to reinstate a child. In this situation if a school refuses to reinstate a child it is required to pay £4,000, but the pupil remains excluded.
Mr Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, commented that Justice was right to highlight inconsistencies in the way permanent exclusions operate, but said the proposals failed to address the bigger issue of how to prevent so many young people being removed from schools. He commented, “To make a real impact on the serious issue of school exclusions, early intervention is more important than tinkering with procedures.”
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