I trust it is not too late for the Steer behaviour task force ("Call for 'right to punish' laws", TES, October 21) to consider whether fixed-term exclusions are an effective punishment. Maybe some research is called for?
I was a secondary head in the 1980s before the introduction of fixed-term exclusions. We were clear that a temporary exclusion was not a punishment, but a last resort to remove pupils damaging the learning and safety of other pupils, and would try to readmit the pupil as soon as possible.
Often the parents of the excluded pupil would say incredulously "So you're letting them off school as a punishment? But they are enjoying it!"
We would explain that this was not a punishment, but an opportunity to assess with the pupil and parents what was causing the problems and what we could do about them. A contract would be drawn up, signed by all three parties and the pupil then readmitted. In most cases this worked successfully.
Fixed-term exclusions put an end to all this: the pupil has to be re-admitted whether or not any of the issues behind the exclusion have been resolved. The exclusion is the punishment. And I bet many parents still find this odd!
Dennis Roberts 433 Greystones Road, Sheffield