The test to be applied by Headteachers when considering the exclusion of a pupil has recently changed under the new School Exclusion Guidance. The changes will apply to all exclusions from January 5th 2015. For further details please read an earlier blog post:
This blog will focus on the second limb of the test set out at paragraph 15 of the Guidance. The test states that permanent exclusions should be reserved for:
• a serious breach, or persistent breaches, of the school’s behaviour policy; or
• where a pupil’s behaviour means allowing the pupil to remain in the school would be detrimental to the education or welfare of the pupil or others in the school.
This means that a Headteacher can exclude for behaviour that does not involve a breach of the school’s behaviour policy. In 2014, The School Exclusion Project represented the parents ofJake, a 6-year-old boy who was excluded for having a pierced ear and for having a particular food item in his lunch box. The school argued that these were in breach of the school’s Uniform Policy and Healthy Eating Policy respectively. Under the old Guidance,it was simple to prove that Jake’s exclusion was illegal because the test stated that the exclusion must arise out of breach of a school’s behaviour policy. No other policies were relevant.Although the school argued that this was a behavioural issue, it could never be said that a child so young chose to pierce his own ear, or even chose the contents of his lunch box. These were clearly actions taken by his parents.
In an attempt to reach out for support, Jake’s parents did a number of things. They posted negative comments about the school on social media, put signs up around their local areacriticising the school, started a petition in favour of their son, and contacted various branches of the media to get their story heard. When we represented the parents at the Governing Body hearing to challenge the exclusion, the relationship between the parents and the school was difficult to say the least. As a result, what should have been a simple hearing for an illegal exclusion, turned into a very hostile meeting that focused almost entirely on what the parents had done to tarnish the school’s reputation andencourage their son to challenge authority. The school argued that this 6-year-old’s ear piercing and repeated possession of “forbidden food” seriously harmed the welfare of the pupils at the school because this was said to be defiant behaviour that wasstirring up a culture of defiance among the pupils.
We were successful at the Governing Body because this was not a breach the school’s behaviour policy in accordance with the old School Exclusion Guidance. However, this may not have been the outcome if the parents had challenged the exclusion under the new Guidance. That is not to say that the school’s arguments would have succeeded under the second limb of the new Guidance, but schools now have greater scope to argue thatparents’ actions affect their child’s behaviour in school, such that the behaviour is detrimental to others. In Jake’s case, he could have run the risk of permanent exclusion for actions that were, in reality, those of his parents.
If your child has been permanently excluded from school, or you are concerned that your child may be at risk of exclusion, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
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