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Record school exclusion rates are a serious cause for concern

The specialist Education team at HCB Solicitors have received a sharp rise in calls this year from parents regarding fixed and permanent exclusions. Approximately 9 times out of 10 the excluded child has a special educational need, which has not been met within the School.

Recent figures released by the Department for Education confirm that there has been a steep increase in the number of permanent exclusions from 6,685 in 2015/2016 to 7,720 in 2016/2017.  This trend is also in keeping with the figures relating to fixed term exclusions which have increased from 339,360 in 2015/2016 to 381,865 in 2016/2017.

From our experience, the reason often given for a permanent exclusion is in relation to a breach of the School behaviour policy. When dissected it is clear that there often have not been any reasonable adjustments made for the child’s special educational needs or in many cases, no consideration for the child’s specific needs at all. We are seeing far more Schools implementing a strict ‘zero tolerance’ behaviour policy, which is not fair or reasonable for children with special educational needs. 

The Department for Education Guidance at Paragraph 19 states:

“Early intervention to address underlying causes of disruptive behaviour should include an assessment of whether appropriate provision is in place to support any SEN or disability that a pupil may have. The head teacher should also consider the use of a multi-agency assessment for a pupil who demonstrates persistent disruptive behaviour. Such assessments may pick up unidentified SEN but the scope of the assessment could go further, for example, by seeking to identify mental health or family problems”.

More often than not, in the cases we have worked on, early intervention and support is not being put in place. The School and Local Authority’s response to this failure is that there is no funding to be able to do so. This is completely unacceptable.

Once children are permanently excluded from a mainstream school, they are often left in limbo without a suitable education. Some excluded children are sent to Pupil Referral Units which may not be suitable for their needs and which do not offer a full day of education. Many children are worryingly not even offered this provision and are left abandoned by the system, with no access to education at all.

The Education Select Committee Chair, Robert Halfon, has recently commented that schools showed a “lack of moral accountability” in children’s education after they had been excluded. This is often experienced by parents who contact us in these situations, as they have been left to arrange their child’s ongoing access to education with no information or advice as to who to contact. 

If your child has been excluded and you wish to challenge the decision or you require advice as to your options moving forward, contact our specialist education team who can offer assistance with the appeal process and representation at any Board of Governors meeting or Independent Review Panel.