A 15-year-old student had been involved in a fight and along with another student had been temporarily excluded for three days. The parents and student were to attend a reintegration meeting, and both were worried that the student would be permanently excluded.
The CEN Education Advocate (EA) was able to explain that a fixed-term exclusion could not be turned into a permanent exclusion, except in exceptional circumstances, and wrote to the Head of the school in advance of the meeting to raise this issue.
The CEN EA attended the re-integration meeting. The school had an almost ‘zero tolerance’ for fights which is not always the case with many schools, but the CEN EA considered that the approach of the Head was fair, even though extremely firm, forewarning the student that any fighting in the future would result in permanent exclusion.
Although this approach to dealing with fights could be argued to fall outside the government guidelines of permanent exclusions, the CEN EA did not raise the point at the meeting in view of the positive steps the school took to reintegrate the student. More importantly, the school put in place a programme to help the student going forward – this included anger management, reconciliation with the victim of the fight, and better decision making.
Both the family and the student were relieved that there was to be no permanent exclusion and the CEN EA was impressed that the school had a number of measures to help the student going forward.
Schools are required to have a strategy for reintegrating a pupil who returns to school following a fixed term exclusion and for managing their future behaviour. However, for the family involved the whole process is likely to be traumatic including the exclusion itself which may or may not have been unjust. For example, some school policies may impose a fixed-term exclusion for a breach of the school uniform rules - something which a child may inadvertently or deliberately commit.
It is highly debatable whether being out of school for two to three days serves any purpose whatsoever in the education of a child for breaches of school rules. In any event, the presence of a fixed-term exclusion on a child’s school record has lasting consequences and CEN’s advice is for families to ask for their help by asking for a meeting with the Governors where a child has been excluded for a fixed term.
The Governors will have no power to overturn a school’s fixed-term exclusion, but they have a duty to consider the actions and policies of the school as well as the repercussions for the child going forward. Furthermore, any reintegration meeting following a fixed term exclusion should aim to have a positive outcome for the child going forward; an issue which the Governors should focus on.
Whilst it is important for parents to engage with the school, it is equally important that families are permitted to approach the Governors where there is a perceived injustice or a flawed process.