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Avoiding exclusion

Permanent exclusion should normally be used as a last resort, and schools should try whatever they can to help your child before that happens. There are several things that schools can try before a permanent exclusion.

Fixed-term exclusions
Fixed-term exclusions are used as punishment for a variety of reasons. There is no complete list saying what a child can be excluded for, but examples include:

  • fighting in the playground;
  • regular disruptive behaviour in the classroom;
  • refusing to obey instructions;
  • bullying;
  • damaging property; or
  • persistently breaking the school rules.

The government says that a child shouldn’t be excluded for things like:

  • not doing homework;
  • pregnancy;
  • truanting;
  • not wearing uniform correctly; or
  • wearing jewellery.

When can the school give detention?

All schools are allowed by law to keep your child after school for detention, without your consent, but detentions must be reasonable and in proportion to the offence.

The school must give you 24 hour’s notice in writing (except for lunch time detentions) if it wants to give your child detention. The school must tell you why they have given detention, and when, where and for how long your child will have to remain at school.

You can object to it, but the Head is still allowed to go ahead with the detention if they wish.

However, if, for example, the school rules forbid wearing jewellery, then a child could be excluded if they continually broke the rules. So schools have a lot of power to decide the reasons for excluding a child.

A child can be excluded for as little as half a day, or even just a lunchtime. A typical exclusion might be for one to three days. No child can be excluded for more than 45 days in one school year. The Head should always try to exclude a child for the minimum time necessary.

The Advisory Centre for Education (ACE) has a detailed booklet for parents on what to do if your child is excluded for a fixed period. See ‘Links to further information’ on the right.

Reintegration meetings

Schools must arrange a reintegration meeting following an exclusion, unless your child is between 11-16 and the exclusion was for 5 days or less. The point of the reintegration meeting is to discuss how your child’s return to school can best be managed. Failure to attend a reintegration meeting is taken into account by a magistrates’ court if the school or local authority apply for a parenting order on you in the future.

The meeting should discuss ways of avoiding further exclusions. For some children setting up a Pastoral Support Programme may be suggested (see below). A parenting contract with support for you may also be suggested (see below).

Pastoral Support Programme

Pastoral Support Programmes are for students who have already had some short fixed-term exclusions, or whose behaviour is rapidly getting worse. There are some rules about putting a Pastoral Support Programme in place.

  • There has to be a meeting of the school and possibly other agencies, such as Connexions or the educational psychologist (see ‘Who’s involved in helping you and your child’).
  • The parents must be invited to that meeting.
  • At the meeting, there will be a discussion about the next moves, and a plan made.

What can parents do?

  • Watch for warning signs
    One clear sign of problems at school is if you get a phone call or letter from the school about particular incidents. The school might also give your child detentions – either within school hours or, more seriously, after school. Although the incidents might seem trivial to you, the school is doing the right thing contacting you at an early stage. There is a danger that if you do nothing now, things may get worse.
  • Be alert to changes in your child’s attitude and behaviour.
    Has something happened either at home or at school which might be affecting him or her? Starting a new school can cause some behaviour problems; your child may be feeling shy or insecure. Or perhaps they are finding it hard to make friends, or there are strong groups of friends already which your child finds intimidating?
  • Know what the school expects from its students
    Make sure you are aware of school policies on behaviour, dress, uniform and attendance. You can get copies of school policies from the school office.

Some of the options might be:

  • Mentoring
    Older pupils can act as mentors or role models. Mentors can also be volunteers from outside organisations, or people working within the school, and they work with individual pupils or in groups to help them change their behaviour. They can help children and parents get other help, and work with other agencies like social services and the health services. A lot of mentors’ work is about building a student’s confidence and self-esteem, as well as helping them with their behaviour and ability to get on with teachers and other students.
  • Disapplying the National Curriculum
    Heads can amend the National Curriculum to help troubled pupils. Teachers can adapt the curriculum to suit a particular child and they can also concentrate on a few key subjects, such as literacy and numeracy for up to six months initially.

When the child becomes 14 and moves into Key Stage 4, it is possible for the young person to start attending work-related courses outside school, while still remaining on the school roll. Before this happens, you should be consulted, but for those young people who are no longer interested in school and are not likely to take many GCSEs, it could be a positive choice to try working. If your child is offered this possibility the law says that he/she must be offered careers guidance.

  • Organising a move to another school
    This is sometimes called a managed move, and it is not exclusion; it is more of a fresh start. The old and new school agree together to move the child. This can work well if, for example, the child has a problem with a particular teacher, student or group of students at the old school. In order to fully address your child’s difficulties, it may be helpful for your child to be given a full support package. Parents should never feel pressurised to agree to a managed move, particularly under threat of a permanent exclusion.
  • Pupil Referral Unit
    Excluded pupils often attend a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU). These separate schools can offer more individual and targeted learning and support. If the school recommends that a pupil moves to a PRU, it is not the same as moving to another mainstream school. A pupil could be at the PRU either full-time, or part-time, spending the rest of the time at mainstream school, which may help with returning to the school full-time at a later date.
  • Help for the parent
    Part of the package agreed at the reintegration meeting may include some help and support for the parents, for example, by finding parenting classes to help them deal with their child’s truancy and bad behaviour.

Know the school rules

There are a whole range of parenting classes and programs on offer, some based in the school, others at doctors’ surgeries, community centres or family centres. This may be in the context of a Parenting Contract (see 'Tackling bad behaviour')

If you are interested in parenting classes, contact Parentline Plus on 0808 800 2222.

September 2009

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