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The 1993 Education Act changed the law on exclusions - the official term for being suspended or expelled.
Now only two kinds of exclusion are permitted:
A fixed term exclusion for a specific number of school days. Under this option a pupil cannot be excluded for a period totalling more than fifteen school days in one term.
A permanent exclusion The 1993 Act abolished the category of indefinite exclusion. A headteacher can also send your child home from school - perhaps because of the way your child is dressed or because your child is sick. This is not the same as an exclusion.
Although the Education Act is clear on the kinds of exclusions which can take place, there is no law which says which offences lead to an exclusion. This is left to the judgement of individual head teachers. The law does not set out school rules, so each school has its own.
Each school should have a set Behaviour Policy and a set Exclusion Policy which should be available to all parents to view or copies available if parents wish to take a copy home.
In a school the people finally responsible for behaviour are the headteacher and the governors. (School rules must not infringe the 1976 Race Relations Act and the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act.)
According to the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) guidelines, exclusions should be used sparingly, in response to serious breaches of school policy or law. Permanent exclusion must be used as a last resort. All the facts should be taken into account including the pupil's age, previous record, health and other relevant issues before the head teacher makes a decision to exclude someone.
The guidelines also specify the following:
Exclusion is not appropriate if pupils dress in a certain way for religious or cultural reasons. 'To exclude in such circumstances might constitute unlawful indirect discrimination under the Race Relations Act 1976'.
Exclusion is not appropriate for things like not doing homework or not bringing dinner money (if this happens on an occasional basis).
Exclusion is not an appropriate response to non-attendance - in other words truancy. If your child fails to attend school regularly the school should work closely with the Education Welfare Service to sort out the problem without excluding your child.
Pregnancy is not a reason to exclude a pupil. It may be advisable to have a period of education away from school (e.g. home tuition), but this is not related to an exclusion.
Schools can detain pupils after school finishing time without the consent of a parent, but are required to give at least 24 hours written notice.
If a headteacher wants to exclude your child, there are certain procedures he or she must follow.
© adders.org 2004
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