Parents of 14 and 15 year olds sometimes contact me because they are considering taking their child out of school to avoid the stigma of a permanent exclusion.
Each parent attested to the negative effects permanent exclusion had on their children, with many describing fruitless struggles to find them suitable provision in the wake of exclusion. Permanent exclusion impacted on the entire family, generating stress and anxiety within the household. Several parents described a sense of powerlessness and frustration as they tried to help their children. Christina was also desperate to find her son Maddox another secondary school. She had visited numerous schools, but because he was in year 11 with a permanent exclusion on his record she had no success securing a place. [Link]
Typically, the young person will have already received several fixed period exclusions and permanent exclusion seems to be the inevitable conclusion. Statistics show that 14 year olds receive the most fixed period exclusions of any age group, amounting to 22% of all FPEs.
He or she (much more likely to be he, since boys account for 73% of all fixed period exclusions in England) will not be coping with sanctions imposed for relatively minor offences, and matters will continually escalate. Usually there will have been meetings to discuss why things are going wrong and offers to put various adjustments or support structures in place but parents doubt what has actually materialised.
Parents ask me who they have to tell about home education and who will check on what they are doing. At the same time they are worried about who will do the teaching for the remainder of the child’s GCSEs and they want advice on finding a tutor.
Early in the conversation I have to break the news that even if parents can afford to pay for a tutor, this won’t solve the problem for GCSEs of the child not being on roll. Children who are outside the system are classed as external or private candidates, and generally can’t take GCSEs except in a very few subjects which only have written exams without any controlled assessments, groupwork or practicals.
I make this point in case at the back of someone’s mind there may be the idea that the young person can “finish off their GCSEs at home and just go in for the exams”.
I tell parents that home educators tend to take a different route right from the start, with IGCSEs or International GCSEs, where it’s entirely up to the family to sift through the different exam boards, look at the specifications (syllabus), choose the right qualification, buy the textbooks, work through the material, and find somewhere to sit the exam. (Case Studies)
On the other hand, if instead of the parent removing the child from school, the child does go on to be permanently excluded, the local authority has a legal responsibility to arrange alternative provision and this should include somewhere to go for lessons at least part of the time, which can be a means of taking a few basic GCSEs.
Of course, exams aren’t the be-all and end-all. It’s not irretrievable to reach 16 without any GCSEs, but if this is a situation you fell into rather than as part of a long term plan, it can narrow down your options considerably.
Parents tend to have a negative view of the local Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) which is the only thing they think will be on offer.
For a parent who wants to jump before they are pushed, it’s impossible to judge how close a child is to being permanently excluded.
Table 14 in the latest exclusion statistics shows that 3250 of the 4000 permanently excluded secondary school pupils (81%) previously had a fixed period exclusion within that year, although it is also important to note that for 29/30 children the fixed period exclusion does NOT end up as permanent.
Table 14 also indicates that 115,670 secondary school pupils received fixed period exclusions, but only 6% of that number had multiple exclusions (5 or more).
A school isn’t allowed to exclude a pupil for more than 45 days in a year, but that absolutely doesn’t mean a child is able to rack up 45 days before the school can exclude permanently.
There doesn’t have to be a serious incident before a pupil is permanently excluded; on the contrary, statistics show most permanent exclusions are for “persistent disruptive behaviour” defined in the current Government Exclusions Guidance as “persistent breaches of the school’s behaviour policy … where allowing the pupil to remain in school would seriously harm the education or welfare of the pupil or others in the school.”
There’s also no law which says the school has to try everything before permanently excluding a pupil. For example, schools don’t have to wait for SEN assessments or adjustments before permanently excluding a pupil.
Nothing prevents a school from excluding a child with special needs. The latest Government statistics show that two thirds of pupils who are permanently excluded have some degree of special educational needs, and 1 in 10 of those have a full Statement of SEN.
Previous Exclusions Guidance (2008) said “Other than in the most exceptional circumstances, schools should avoid permanently excluding pupils with statements” but the current Exclusions Guidance is weaker, only saying heads should avoid this “as far as possible”. The current Guidance then dilutes this even further by adding that “pupils who repeatedly disobey their teachers’ academic instructions could, however, be subject to exclusion.”
A pupil who has previously been excluded but who now seems to be turning things round and getting mostly positive feedback, can be permanently excluded, seemingly out of the blue. The pupil doesn’t even have to be attending school at the time; parents can receive a letter while a child is temporarily excluded informing them that a permanent exclusion has now come into effect.
GOV.UK: “Permanent exclusion means your child is expelled” https://www.gov.uk/school-discipline-exclusions/exclusions Sometimes shortened to PE or PEX.
Fixed Period Exclusion
GOV.UK: “A fixed period exclusion is where your child is temporarily removed [suspended] from school” https://www.gov.uk/school-discipline-exclusions/exclusions Sometimes shortened to FPE.
2012 Exclusions Guidance
Exclusions Statistics 2013-14 published July 2015
Taking Exams as External Candidate
Home Education Law in England
My website page on exclusions
Parents Guide to Internal Exclusion