School exclusion is a sensitive topic. The temporary or permanent exclusion of a child from their school has consequences for their future education and impacts upon every aspect of family life. Therefore, it’s essential that when it happens, homes and schools communicate well together, and parents feel supported in knowing what options are available to them. A collaborative approach will help to maintain trust and goodwill that in most circumstances, parents and teachers/head teachers share.
Earlier in 2018, the government opened a consultation on school exclusions partly because the Education Select Committee has taken an interest in the subject especially in relation to alternative provision. They have already raised concerns about disproportionately high levels of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) pupils affected by exclusion.
We wanted the testimony of parents of children who have experienced exclusion to be central to our response. Therefore we created a survey, which was open to all parents in England with a child who has recently experienced exclusion.
What we learned from parents
- 89% reported their child has a diagnosis that would classify them as SEND
- 92% told us that they had an overwhelmingly negative experience of talking to their child's teacher or head teacher about the exclusion
- Many parents cited examples of negative impacts on family life that the exclusion brought about
- Only 6% were referred for additional help by their child's school
- Many parents told us the additional support that would help them the most was being listened to by school
- Just over half were not aware of their school’s exclusions policy prior to their child's exclusion
- Most exclusions were temporary and most children returned to their original school
- The period of exclusion varies greatly between schools, from an afternoon to a week or longer
- The proportion of parents responding whose child was eligible for free school meals was a little higher than the national average, suggesting children from lower socio-economic backgrounds may be disproportionately affected.
It's important to stress that our survey provides only a snapshot of the issue of school exclusion, and the sample size is too small to be of wide statistical significance. It does, however, gather anecdotal evidence and presents parental testimony of school exclusion. We believe most schools communicate well with their parents, but it’s important to get this right in all areas. Measures that may help parents to feel supported during a school exclusion would be:
- Knowing the school exclusion policies, and where to find them, from the point of their child’s enrolment
- Being able to have a say in shaping or suggesting changes to the exclusion policy
- Schools proactively researching all the options available to a parent, especially in the event of a long or permanent exclusion, and supporting them until their child re-joins education
- Establishing a parents’ ‘bill of rights’, so that they are able to appeal exclusions where they feel they are not justified
- Ensuring schools are held to account on exclusions, to ensure a neutral third party, such as an inspectorate, is satisfied that exclusions are proportionate and in everyone’s best interests.
Parentkind’s vision is for the active participation of parents to be considered a key part of a child’s educational success. We champion all parents who get involved and support them in having a say in school life.
See also the article we wrote for Tes, 'We need to talk about exclusions'.