School exclusions and Special Educational Needs

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Pupils who have special educational needs (SEN) support, including those children with Education, Heath and Care Plans (EHCP), have the highest exclusion rate in the UK. The Department for Education found that children with SEN are over 7 times more likely to be permanently excluded than pupils with without.

Children with SEN, such as Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), are particularly vulnerable to being excluded because they have difficulties in processing sensory or communication information that can lead to ‘explosive’ or difficult behaviour. The National Autistic Society reported that 17% of children with ASD have been suspended from school; 48% of these had been suspended three or more times; 4% had been expelled from one or more schools.

More generally, the number and rate of permanent exclusions increased in special and mainstream secondary schools in 2015. Persistent disruptive behaviour was the most common reason provided by schools, accounting for over a third of all permanent exclusions and over a quarter of all fixed term exclusions.

Types of exclusion

Only Head Teachers can exclude children from school and must only do so for disciplinary reasons.

Unofficial or informal exclusions (like sending a child home to ‘cool off’ or reducing a child’s timetable on the basis that the school can’t meet the child’s needs) are unlawful – even if parents have given permission for their child to go home. If a child is informally excluded from school, the right to receive alternative education after the 6th day of exclusion is never triggered. This means children who are subjected to informal exclusions could miss out on large chunks of education.

A fixed period exclusion is where the child is temporarily removed from school. Children can only be removed for a maximum of 45 days a year, even if they have changed schools within that year.

For the first five days of exclusion, schools must take reasonable steps to set and mark work for the child to complete. The formal letter from the head teacher setting out the reasons and conditions of the exclusion should also specify how the school will provide work for the child to complete during the first five days. Work that is provided should be accessible and achievable by pupils outside of school.

Permanent exclusion means the child has been expelled from the school. It is the local authority’s duty to provide alternative, suitable, full- time education no later than the 6th school day after the exclusion. This applies to all children of compulsory school age resident in the local authority area, whatever type of school they attend.

Children with SEN

It is unlawful to exclude a child because the school says it can’t meet the child’s SEN. The school must look at putting alternative provisions in place and assessing what additional support the child requires. However, if the school is not able to deal with a child’s SEN they are able to manage a school transfer.

If a child has been permanently excluded then the local authority has a duty to provide an alternative provision that will be able to meet the child’s needs. If the child has a Statement or an EHCP the local authority must also consult with the parents before naming the alternative provision.  The Statement and EHCP are still both legally binding documents and the local authority has a continuing duty to provide the educational provision set out in part 3 / section F.

Any parent of a child or young person who is at risk of exclusion is strongly advised to request an immediate review of the Statement / EHCP to address why your child is being excluded and work out what further support or change of support is required.

How can we help?

At Boyes Turner we specialise in requesting EHC needs assessments and ensuring EHCPs are protecting the child or young person’s right to education.

Correct support and an effective, meaningful, EHCP is essential if you are concerned that your child will be excluded as a result of their SEN or if your child has experienced unlawful exclusions. If your child has already been excluded it is important to decide whether the EHCP needs to be reviewed to provide more or different targeted support and to decide whether the alternative provision named by the Local Authority is going to be able to meet your child’s needs.

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