Government tightens school exclusion guidance to clear up 'confusion'

Consultation comes two years after government withdrew new guidance just weeks after it was published

Martin George

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The government has outlined plans to tighten guidance to schools on excluding and expelling pupils.

It today launched a five-week consultation on the revised guidance, which it says aims to “clarify” areas that were “causing confusion in the system”, rather than change existing policy.

It also includes “corrected descriptions of legal requirements” that it said were not clear enough in the previous guidance, which dates from 2012.

The proposed changes, which are due to come into effect in September 2017, come two years after ministers had to drop new guidance, weeks after it was issued, “to address some issues with process”.

At the time, the DfE said it would issue updated guidance “in due course”.

Today's proposed changes to the guidance include clarifications that:

  • Schools cannot extend a fixed-term exclusion. Instead, they must issue a further fixed-period exclusion;
  • Schools cannot convert a fixed-term exclusion into a permanent exclusion. Instead, they must issue a separate permanent exclusion;
  • The standard of proof used to decide whether a fact is true is that “the decision-maker(s) should accept that something happened if it is more likely that it happened than that it did not happen”;
  • Headteachers must tell parents “without delay and, at the latest, by the end of the afternoon session” the times when their child is not allowed to appear in a public place during their exclusion;
  • If a child is excluded for a further fixed period, or subsequently permanently excluded, “the head teacher must inform parents without delay and issue a new exclusion notice to parents”;
  • If an excluded child has an Education, Health and Care Plan, the council may have to review the plan, or reassess their needs, with parents, “with a view to identifying a new placement”;
  • If a pupil would miss an exam because of an exclusion, the governing body must, “so far as is reasonably practicable”, consider the exclusion before the exam takes place. It sets out what schools should do if not enough governors are available to do this.
  • Set out the role of special educational needs experts to independent review panels, which hear appeals from parents unhappy with a governing body’s decision.

The government has also issued new documents for headteachers and parents about the exclusion system.

The consultation opened this afternoon, and runs until 25 April.

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