In England, updated statutory guidance on exclusions from schools took effect in September 2022. This guidance complements the “Behavior in schools” guidance, which offers details and recommendations for managing student behaviour. The exclusion guidance provides information and support to a wide range of school and educational professionals, including: headteachers, governing boards, local authorities (LAs), academy trusts, independent review panel (IRP) members, SEND experts, social workers, and Virtual School Heads (VSHs).
What does this new schools exclusion guidance outline?
- Reasons for exclusion: This guidance sets out that when it comes to suspensions and permanent school exclusions, the reasons for handing an exclusion to a pupil can only be made for disciplinary matters, such as serious misbehaviour or repeated breaches of the school’s behaviour policy. Headteachers are expected to exercise professional judgement and consider individual circumstances in every case. Also, reasons for exclusion need to be clearly communicated via a formal process. Paragraph 18 of the guidance states that: ‘Each disciplinary suspension and permanent exclusion must be confirmed to the parents in writing with notice of the reasons for the suspension or permanent exclusion.’
- Processes for exclusion: When considering an exclusion, schools must follow a fair and transparent procedure that includes holding a formal process for arranging alternative education or care, having a formal process for notifying parents of exclusions, and more. The guidance contains information on how children on suspension or permanent exclusion can be included in the exclusion process, taking into account their age and capacity to understand.
- Alternatives to exclusion: Schools must consider alternative measures before proceeding to exclude a pupil, this could include alternative provision. The guidance provides advice and details on particular types of alternatives which limit suspensions and permanent exclusions – managed moves and offsite directions. This guidance sets out how schools can monitor and oversee alternative provisions, and work in partnership with alternative provision providers to ensure continued and smooth support is offered to pupils offline and also through the use of online pathways.
- Length of exclusion: The length of a fixed term exclusion cannot exceed 45 days in a single school term. There was discussion prior to this guidance publication, on whether this would be changed, but now it remains unchanged.
- Reviewing exclusions: Schools must review exclusions regularly and provide support to pupils and families during the exclusion period, including organising plans to support the learning of an excluded pupil. Schools must operate in compliance with the SEND guidance of 2020 and the Equality Act of 2010.
- Right to appeal: Pupils and their parent/guardians have the right to appeal exclusions via the school’s internal appeals process and also through an independent appeal’s panel.
- Reintegration: Schools must support the reintegration of permanently excluded pupils, either through alternative provision or by facilitating transfers to another school ( known as managed moves)
- Permanent exclusions: New guidance emphasises that while headteachers are supported in safeguarding their school communities, permanent exclusions should be used as a last resort.
What has changed since publication of previous guidance?
- Alternatives to exclusion: There has been a greater emphasis on alternatives to exclusion, such as managed moves and off-site directions. There has been consideration of how SEND pupils can be supported.
- Permanent exclusion: There has been an increased focus on preventing the number of permanent exclusions and ensuring that they are used as a last resort. Schools must provide clear evidence to support any permanent exclusion and must follow a fair and transparent process of informing relevant staff and parents, offering internal right of review, appeal and
- Reintegration: There is a greater emphasis on supporting the reintegration of permanently excluded students into education, either through alternative provision or by facilitating their transfer to another school. Schools must also provide support to families during the exclusion period and support in the plan and monitoring of a reintegration strategy.
- Right of appeal: The guidance has been updated to clarify the right of appeal for students and their families, including the process for appealing a permanent exclusion.
- Mental health and well-being: The guidance now includes a focus on the mental health and wellbeing of students, including the importance of considering this when making decisions about exclusion and support during the exclusion itself.
These changes to the guidance reflect the importance of ensuring that exclusions are used as a last resort. They also reflect the increasing recognition of the impact that exclusion can have on a student’s mental health and wellbeing.
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