No-excuses behaviour policies in schools could be illegal under equality and anti-discrimination legislation, a group promoting the rights of disabled children has told MPs.
The Commons Education Select Committee this morning heard evidence as part of its inquiry into alternative provision.
Labour MP Emma Hardy told the witnesses she was concerned about “extremely strict, rigid, no excuses behaviour policies that are put out by certain large academy chains in particular in the north”.
She asked what impact such policies, and reforms to the curriculum, have on the number of children going into alternative provision.
Matthew Dodd, co-coordinator and policy advisor for the Special Educational Consortium, said that under the Equality Act and Disability Discrimination Act, “reasonable adjustments” must be made for people with disabilities.
He said: “I think zero-tolerance behaviour policies might be unlawful, anyway – reasonable adjustments must be made to everything that public bodies do, so we would certainly like to see those sorts of policies challenged by government itself.
“On curriculum, the same with behaviour policies, the more rigid you make the structure, the more difficult it is for children who are different to fit in.
“If you speak to teachers, the rigidity of the new curriculum is a major barrier to inclusive teaching.”
Mr Dodd also raised concerns about the “completely unregulated system of referrals” to alternative provision, compared to the more structured system for children with special educational needs and disability.
He told the MPs: “There is a system in place for children with special educational needs in the Children and Families Act. If a mainstream school cannot meet your needs you should have an Education, Health and Care Plan and then a particular institution is named on that plan to meet your educational needs – there is a legal process and it can be challenged in the tribunal.
“Where a child is referred to alternative provision there just is not that level of regulation and it just happens. Sometimes it happens well, sometimes it happens very poorly.
“We don’t see why we have a very tightly regulated system that many children go through – and a completely unregulated system of referrals that another group of children go through.”
He told MPs that it was “simply not an appropriate system for children with special educational needs”.