Can a school send a child home for a cooling off period or for short periods such as lunchtimes?
The answer is no – even if the parent of the child agrees to the exclusion. Any kind of informal exclusion is not valid in law.
There are only two types of exclusions, fix term (suspended) or permanent exclusions (expelled). Any other type of exclusion is unlawful. All exclusions even short period exclusions such as during lunch times must be formally recorded by the school as a half day fix period exclusion.
Children with SEN are more at risk of unlawful exclusions. The exclusion could be directly related to the child’s SEN and disability and may indicate that the school is not supporting the child’s needs.
The law states that head teachers should as far as possible avoid permanent exclusion for children with SEN and children in care. There are strict guidelines for schools and Academies to follow, for an exclusion to be valid. Different rules for other types of education establishments apply, which we can also advise and assist you with.
A child can only be excluded on disciplinary grounds. All schools have a behavioural policy which sets out the type of behaviour that can result to an exclusion. A stricter test applies when the exclusion is permanent, the disciplinary behaviour must be of a serious nature and allowing the child to remain at the school would cause serious harm to others at the school. The behaviour of a child outside school can also be a ground for exclusion.
All children should be given an opportunity to give their side of the story before a decision is reached by the headteacher. Any child who is excluded is entitled to be educated from the sixth day. The maximum period a child can be removed from school is 45 school days in one academic year. Regardless if they have changed schools. When a fix term exclusion ends, schools must have a strategy for reintegrating the child back into school and a plan to manage their future behaviour.
Parents can appeal to the governors for all exclusions. A parent can challenge the exclusion decision to the school’s governing body if the exclusion is more than 5 days. The school’s governing body can overturn the headteacher’s decision. If the exclusion is permanent, a review meeting with the Governor’s will be held within 15 school days. If the exclusion is not overturned, then parents can challenge the exclusion to the Independent Review Panel.
Where it is considered that the exclusion is related to disability discrimination or SEN, parents can challenge the exclusion to the SEND tribunal within 6 months.
If you would like advice and guidance from Rozina, who is an expert in SEND law, please click here.