Go back a step

Our response to school exclusions consultation

Thursday 11th May 2017

Last month, we responded to the government consultation on changes to the statutory guidance on the exclusion of pupils in England. The statutory guidance sets out what schools and local authorities must do to comply with the law.

Calls to our helpline suggest that there is widespread discrimination against disabled pupils with respect to exclusions and schools' behaviour policies.

We therefore very much welcome the strengthening of references in the guidance to the Equality Act and to schools' statutory duties under special educational needs (SEN) legislation. It is helpful to remind schools that these duties must be 'complied with' rather than 'taken account of' as in the previous version.

However, we are extremely disappointed that the draft guidance is unchanged on illegal/unlawful exclusions. The reference to 'cooling off' does not reflect the range of unlawful exclusions that parents tell us about on our helpline. These include:

  • Sending a child home because the school say they cannot meet a child's needs.
  • Sending a child home because a child's support assistant is off sick.
  • Putting a child on an indefinite part-time timetable.

We are therefore recommending the statutory guidance on exclusions is extended and strengthened on illegal exclusion as this is a widespread problem and means disabled children are being denied education as a result.

Read our full response to the consultation [PDF].

What we know about exclusions

It is wrong that children with SEN account for over half of all permanent exclusions and fixed period exclusions. Children on SEN support are over seven times more likely to receive a permanent exclusion than children with no SEN (Permanent and fixed period exclusions in England: 2014 to 2015, Department for Education).

A child can only be legally excluded from school for disciplinary reasons. A headteacher must formally tell parents that their child will be excluded by giving them details in writing. Any other exclusions are illegal/unlawful.

Our research, Falling through the net [PDF], found that disabled children are routinely illegally excluded from school. Almost a quarter (22 per cent) of those are illegally excluded every week.

What can I do if I'm worried about exclusions?

We encourage parents to contact our freephone helpline if you are worried about your child at school. We can explain:

  • The exclusion process.
  • What you can do if you disagree with your child's exclusion.
  • What an unlawful or illegal exclusion is and how to challenge it.

Visit our school exclusions webpage to find out more information.