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'Cooling-off' time for excluded pupils

Pupils who are excluded may be subject to a 14-day cooling-off period, so their local authority and others can make representations on their behalf to the governing body.

The proposal is expected to follow a report by the Prime Minister's social exclusion unit. One of the unit's first tasks is to find ways to cut the growing number of exclusions (12,500 last year, a 13 per cent increase on the previous year).

The Government intends to add the "cooling off" amendment to the School Standards and Framework Bill in the House of Lords. Graham Lane, Labour chair of the Local Government Association, said the legislation as it stands does not allow local authorities a say in exclusions, althouth they are responsible for the child's education.

He said: "Once a governing body decides it wants to exclude one of its pupils, the local authority must be notified and only after 14 days will it be able to make its final decision. In the meantime the authority may provide a solution, or may agree with the governing body's view."

Last month David Blunkett, the Education Secretary, told a joint meeting of the Commons health and education committees that he was consulting on a scheme to make schools pay part of the cost for excluding pupils. While schools could lose a sum equivalent to that provided for the child in its budget, Mr Blunkett says they could be made to bear part of the costs for their future education. A "revolving door" policy where a school excluding a pupil must accept another is also being considered.

The Bill will allow schools to refuse admission to pupils permanently excluded from two schools.

The Government has said pound;22 million will be made available for schemes tackling the problem of disaffected pupils, and another pound;59 million to help excluded pupils.

The Bill debate, page 10

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