Schools break law in sending pupils home

Schools that tried alternatives to formal exclusion sometimes acted illegally by sending children home. The researchers say the practice was widespread under the former regional councils. "It is perceived as being less serious and therefore a less confrontational way of bringing to parents' attention the degree of their child's misbehaviour in the eyes of the school."

But the school remains responsible for the child unless official exclusion procedures have been followed, the report warns.

The most commonly used alternative was some form of internal exclusion, or time out. It could vary from five minutes outside the classroom door, part of the day or days spent with the headteacher, as well as exclusion from a particular subject, such as French, or from a curricular area like expressive arts.

The researchers believe this raises a number of issues: the pupil is doing no work or work with no educative purpose; it could mean lack of access to a balanced curriculum with no right of appeal; and it involves difficulties reintegrating into class and catching up. "Like external exclusion, it means separation from peers and attracting negative attention of other members of staff, with the associated problems of labelling and bad reputation."

But heads and others argued that such methods keep the routine of attending school, do not inconvenience parents or carers and usually entail less loss of education than formal exclusion while still removing the pupil from class.

* Exclusions and In-School Alternatives. By Pamela Munn, Mairi Ann Cullen, Margaret Johnstone and Gwynedd Lloyd. A summary is published in the Scottish Office Interchange series, number 47. The report is in four parts: Education Authority Policy and Procedures, price Pounds 5, Alternative Education Provision for Excluded Pupils, Pounds 8, The Headteachers' Perspective, Pounds 10, and Case Studies, Pounds 10, from the Publications Unit, Moray House Institute, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh EH8 8AQ.

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