The Department for Education has published updated guidance on the suspension and permanent exclusions of pupils from local authority maintained schools, academies and pupil referral units during the coronavirus pandemic.
The legislation governing the exclusion process remains unchanged. This statutory guidance has been updated in a small number of areas, to provide greater confidence to head teachers on their use of exclusion and to provide greater clarity to independent review panels and governing boards on their consideration of exclusion decisions.
A summary of the key information can be found below:
- In January 2015, the Department amended regulations to clarify that a governing board’s duty to arrange education from the sixth day of a fixed-period exclusion is triggered by consecutive fixed-period exclusions totalling more than five days.
- The Government supports head teachers in using exclusion as a sanction where it is warranted. However, permanent exclusion should only be used as a last resort.
- The decision to exclude a pupil must be lawful, reasonable and fair.
- Schools have a statutory duty not to discriminate against pupils on the basis of protected characteristics, such as disability or race.
- Schools should give particular consideration to the fair treatment of pupils from groups who are vulnerable to exclusion.
- Disruptive behaviour can be an indication of unmet needs. In this situation, schools should consider whether a multi-agency assessment that goes beyond the pupil’s educational needs is required.
- Schools should have a strategy for reintegrating a pupil who returns to school following a fixed-period exclusion and for managing their future behaviour.
- Schools should take reasonable steps to set and mark work for pupils during the first five school days of an exclusion; and alternative provision must be arranged from the sixth day.
- Where parents dispute the decision of a governing board not to reinstate a permanently excluded pupil, they can ask for this decision to be reviewed by an independent review panel.
- An independent review panel does not have the power to direct a governing board to reinstate an excluded pupil. However, where a panel decides that a governing board’s decision is flawed when considered in the light of the principles applicable on an application for judicial review, it can direct a governing board to reconsider its decision. The panel will then be expected to order that the school must make an additional payment of £4,000 if it does not offer to reinstate the pupil.
- Whether or not a school recognises a pupil as having SEN, all parents have the right to request the presence of an SEN expert at a review meeting. The SEN expert’s role is to advise the review panel, orally or in writing or both, impartially, of the relevance of SEN in the context and circumstances of the review.
- Excluded pupils should be enabled and encouraged to participate at all stages of the exclusion process, taking into account their age and ability to understand.