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Message in: you're out. Exclusion email plan

Pupils could be permanently excluded by email under new measures being considered by the Government.

The Department for Education and Skills is consulting teaching unions and education authorities about the move, which could come into force next year.

It is planning an order amending the Education Act 1996 to allow schools to communicate with parents electronically, and is consulting over whether the new rights should be extended to cover exclusions.

It says factors which should be taken into account include the increased availability of electronic communications, and the fact that similar processes, such as serving school attendance orders by email, will become legal.

Safeguards would be brought in to ensure that parents consented to being contacted electronically by the school.

A DFES spokesperson said a majority of respondents would have to be in favour for it to consider exclusion by email.

But John Bangs of the National Union of Teachers said serving such notices by email was not a good idea. "Until there is proof that everyone is on line, then some will be discriminated against," he said.

The consultation closes at the end of July, and the change is due to come into effect in 2003.

It will not make the use of email compulsory, but will say that it is a valid means of serving notices. Schools would have to get parental consent and should emphasise that a variety of communications could be emailed.

"They might incorporate advice that parents should only agree to this means of communication if they regularly read their email," the department's consultation document suggests.

Other procedures affected will include appeals on such issues as admissions and statements of special educational need.

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