5. What can I do if I disagree with the exclusion?
a) Request an appointment with the headteacherTo discuss your concerns and ask him/her to reconsider the exclusion.
b) Ask the governors to review the decision
You will need to send a letter to the Clerk of the Discipline Committee (addressed to the school) as soon as possible after you get the letter telling you about the exclusion.
Governors must meet to review certain exclusions and must consider any representations about an exclusion made by you. For fixed-period exclusions of 1-5 days in a term the governors must consider your representations but do not have to meet. For exclusions of 1-5 days governors are unable to shorten the exclusion, but can place a note of their findings on your child’s file. For exclusions of 6-15 days governors must hold a meeting if you request one. For fixed period exclusions of more than 15 days and permanent exclusions governors must hold a meeting to review the exclusion whether you request them to do so or not. You and your child will be invited to attend this meeting.
c) Prepare what you want to say
It is a good idea to write down your views as soon as possible and send them to the Clerk of the Governors’ Discipline Committee giving them time to circulate your written view before the meeting (this is particularly important if you are unable to attend the meeting). If you do not have time to do this, and you are attending the meeting, take copies with you. It is better if you write down what you want to say even if you will be attending the meeting in person. If you have posted your views in writing prior to the meeting, you should still attend in person with your child (it is normally left to the parent to decide if it is appropriate for the child to attend) as you will be able to make additional comments at the Governors’ Discipline Committee meeting. You should consider the following things when preparing what you want to say: -
(1) What does your child say about the exclusion?
Try to talk to your child as soon as possible, ask your child what happened. You or your child should write down what is said. If you are not clear about what happened, go back to the beginning and question them closely e.g. “Show me exactly where you were.” “Where was everyone standing?” “Did anything lead up to this?” “What exactly did the teacher say?” Write the details out as fully as you can. Was this a serious breach of the school’s behaviour/discipline policy? If you don’t think it was, explain why. Your child’s view of the incident is very important, and every opportunity should have been made for your child to make a statement. If your child now wants to apologise for something, they could do so in writing and/or do so at the meeting if you and your child are attending. Your child may need to think of ways of putting the situation right if possible.
(2) What do others say?
Look at what the headteacher says, look at what others say. Did the school take statements from your child and witnesses? You may see all the statements. Does anyone support your child’s version of events? If so try to get a statement from them with clear details. If there are important disagreements between the statements, mark them. Has there been a misunderstanding?
(3) You may want to say a little about your child
What sort of person is your child? Imagine you are describing them to a stranger. Remember their good points. Are there any reports which show what your child is like? Is there someone official, like a playgroup leader, doctor, youth worker or employer, or, perhaps, a neighbour who might write a letter about them? Describe your child and add anything that explains your child’s behaviour and/or shows that exclusion may be wrong or too long.
(4) Think about your child at the time of the exclusion
Was anything upsetting your child? Was there pressure from others? Could anything else have affected their behaviour? Have they been bullied, racially or sexually harassed or faced discrimination, inside or outside school? If drugs are involved, is your child more likely to be in contact with drugs through not being in school? If your child was at school instead of being excluded would this seriously harm the education and welfare of themselves or others?
(5) Think about the incident
If others were involved in the same incident, the Governors’ Discipline Committee will consider the fairness of the treatment of both your child and the other children involved in the incident.
(6) Check your child’s school record
You may have access to your child’s full school record (not just their academic record). Does it include information which is new to you and may affect your case? There may be information relating to your child that is confidential to the school. The school cannot share this with you but will share the full school record.
(7) Consider any Special Circumstances
The DfE Exclusions’ guidance says that the exclusion rates for certain groups of pupils are “consistently higher than average” and explains
headteachers should consider what extra support might be needed. Examples of these are:
Children who are: starting primary or secondary school; from minority ethnic backgrounds; in care (looked after); in receipt of free school meals; traveller children; young carers; from families under stress; pregnant schoolgirls and teenage mothers; unaccompanied asylum seekers.
The DfE Exclusions’ guidance says these children are “particularly vulnerable to the impacts of exclusion” and explains headteachers should consider what extra support might be needed. Even if your child is in one of these groups, they may still be excluded if the situation or incident is so serious that the headteacher decides that there is no alternative other than to exclude.
(8) Does your child have emotional and behavioural difficulties and/or a learning difficulty?
If your child’s behaviour is much more difficult than average and/or perhaps they cannot control their feelings so their school work is disrupted, they may have emotional and behavioural difficulties which are affecting their learning. A child with special educational needs may need extra help at school. If your child does not get the help they need, this may lead to poor or worsening behaviour. Further information is in the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice, this is available from the Local Authority.
If your child is undergoing a statutory assessment, the school should make every effort not to exclude him or her. If your child already has a statement of special educational needs and the school has tried all alternatives to exclusion, the headteacher should liaise with the Local Authority about initiating an interim annual review. If the headteacher does decide to permanently exclude, the headteacher should use the time between the initial decision and the Governors’ Discipline Committee meeting to see whether more support could be made available or whether the statement could be amended to name an alternative school.
(9) Were drugs involved?
Check the school’s policy on drugs. The headteacher should consult the school’s drugs co-ordinator and take account of both the policy and the precise circumstances of the case.
(10) Was discrimination, harassment or bullying involved?
Check the school’s racial equality policy and behaviour policy. If you feel bullying, discrimination or harassment were involved in the incident explain why.
(11) Has your child a recognised disability? Do you believe that the exclusion was as a result of behaviour related to your child’s disability?
Schools have a legal duty not to discriminate against disabled pupils by excluding them from school because of behaviour related to their disability. An exclusion of a disabled pupil for a reason related to their disability can only be justified if there is a material and substantial reason for it. If other reasonable steps could have been taken by the school and were not, then it may not be possible to justify the pupil’s exclusion. Where there is an allegation of discrimination (under the Equality Act 2010) in relation to a fixed-period or permanent exclusion, you may make a claim to the First-tier Tribunal (for disability discrimination) or a County Court (for other forms of discrimination).
(12) Consider strategies used to improve behaviour
Schools should work with you and your child to avoid exclusions. Any problems should be discussed with you at an early stage and an action plan to improve behaviour agreed with you and your child. Any particular strategies that are to be used to prevent further exclusions such as managed move, restorative justice, mediation and internal exclusion should have been considered and explained to you. Look at what the school has done to help your child improve their behaviour. Do you feel that there is anything else the school could have tried?
If, despite using strategies to modify behaviour, your child had several fixed period exclusions and was in danger of permanent exclusion, the school should have produced a Pastoral Support Programme (PSP) and warned you of the risk of permanent exclusion. The PSP (sometimes called an Individual Behaviour Plan) should have been agreed with you and should help your child to manage their behaviour better. The school should also seek help from the Local Authority, support services (e.g. Locality Team, Educational Psychology or Education Inclusion Service).
Further advice and guidance for parents is available from the Coram Children’s Legal Centre on 08088 020 008 or www.childrenslegalcentre.com
What happens if I do not make representations?
The Governors’ Discipline Committee still has to meet to review permanent exclusions and fixed period exclusions over 15 days in one term, whether or not you or your child wishes to have their say or attend.