9th June 2000 at 01:00
I DREAD being asked to take part in an exclusion review. Like most governors I can't help being torn between the needs of the victims and the child concerned. By "victims" I mean not only the pupils or teachers who have been attacked or abused but also the larger number who may have had their work seriously disrupted over a period. But the child excluded may suffer irreparable damage too. I also find it hard to find some sensible guiding principles, sometimes think the case made wouldn't stand up in a court of law, and finally don't know what else the school can do with some of these children even if the punishment does seem harsh. Can you help?

YOUR last point is the one which in the end we are all up against, because there are in most places just not adequate facilities for children who cannot cope with normal school life. Inadequate funding, pressure to improve performance, the stresses on teachers and the natural concern of most parents for their children's safety and peace are typical factors.

Many children at some time need respite in some form and there isn't enough to go around. The recent government initiatives should improve things, and meanwhile many schools are experimenting with different forms of behaviour management, "social" or internal exclusion, and other forms of punishment like service in the school community.

Meanwhile, we do have to remember our responsibility to the well-behaved and diligent majority. But we also have to make a judgment on the case before us and whether in the circumstances exclusion for the period in question ws reasonable. This means questions:

Is the evidence on the mis-

demeanour sound? That means free from hearsay, prejudice and supposition. Language used in the dossier before you should be factual and unemotional, if only because an independent tribunal may not be so understanding. Having a decision overturned at that level is not nice.

We must protect teachers by being tough on this, even though we understand their exasperation, weariness and often fear, and explain why. Has the school explored all possible strategies to improve the child's behaviour and adaptation to the school environment? Was there any point at which the course of events could have been changed by a fresh approach? Has the child special needs? If so has the school done everything the law and code of practice require?

Watch particularly what has happened to a child who has had multiple short exclusions. Was everything done properly to facilitate integration on return to school, personal study programmes, counselling, supervision? Parents - and lawyers - can wreak havoc on these points, and rightly. Did the school know and take account of any particular problems in the home life of the child? Were parents properly involved at every stage? (Letters may not be sufficient. A good advocate will look for more persistent and direct personal contact and so must we.) Be friendly to parents - show that you understand how they feel.

Emphasise your responsibility to the majority, but never forget that showing sympathy for the difficulties of modern parenting works wonders.

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