Updated exclusions guidance for schools
It’s been a busy time for the DfE and we have seen the release of various documents regarding school exclusions. Over the past couple of weeks we have seen publication of the updated DfE Statutory Exclusions Guidance, and the release of statistics relating to the number of permanent and fixed term exclusions nationally, during the 2015-16 academic year*. Here, we provide a brief summary of both.
The Updated Exclusions Guidance
The existing exclusions guidance has been in place for some time and we have been expecting an update. Many will be aware that the guidance was amended in January 2015 but was quickly withdrawn after it was issued without any consultation and consequently received a number of complaints.
The updated guidance doesn’t come into play until 1 September 2017 but as many schools have now broken up for the summer, we envisage head teachers and governors dreading the thought of reclining on their sun loungers, leafing through all 61 pages. Luckily, we can point out the significant changes in a few short paragraphs.
It is worth noting that the law itself hasn’t changed; the latest guidance is simply a bit of a refresh and an attempt to make some parts of the old guidance a bit clearer. The key changes include:
- definitions of ‘parents’, ‘term’ and ‘academic year’;
- clarification that schools cannot ‘extend’ a fixed term exclusion or ‘convert’ it into a permanent one. They must issue a further exclusion notice at the end of a fixed term exclusion;
- an explanation as to the standard of proof that head teachers should use when deciding whether a fact is true;
- specific reference to the fact that head teachers must “without delay, notify parents of the period of the exclusion and the reason(s) for it” both in respect of the first exclusion and any subsequent fixed term or permanent exclusion;
- that the local authority may have to review the EHCP or reassess a child’s needs with a view to identifying a new placement;
- details as to what schools should do where there are not enough governors available to consider an exclusion where a pupil would miss a public examination or national curriculum test; and
- greater detail in relation to the role of special educational needs experts to independent review panels (IRPs).
The updated guidance also includes new appendices (B and C). Appendix B gives further guidance to head teachers and Appendix C provides the same for parents and carers. Whilst Appendix C is for parents and carers, it is also likely to be a useful tool for head teachers in answering any questions that parents or carers may have.
Latest DfE Exclusions Statistics
The latest statistics show that there was an overall increase in permanent and fixed term exclusions across the country, compared to the same period the year before.
The total number of permanent exclusions equated to 6,685 and there were 339,360 fixed term exclusions - the majority of which were from state funded secondary schools (maintained, academies and free schools). The most common reason for both types of exclusion was ‘persistent disruptive behaviour’.
The statistics show that just under half of all exclusions were pupils with SEN* and that over half of all exclusions related to pupils in year 9 or above.
When looking at these statistics, it seems no coincidence that - for the same period - there was also an increase in disability discrimination claims to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal. It remains to be seen what impact (slightly) clearer exclusions guidance will have on exclusion rates and in turn, the number of disability discrimination claims lodged.