Excluding a child is a very serious step. Schools should not send a child home as a way of managing a child’s additional support needs. If a child is at risk of being excluded, their school should take all reasonable steps to make sure they have support in place to meet their needs.
Before excluding a child the school should consider:
- all the facts about incidents leading to the exclusion
- the impact the exclusion will have on the child
- whether the behaviour leading to the exclusion is a result of a disability, as this may amount to disability discrimination (more info about Disability Discrimination can be found here)
An exclusion should be for as short a period of time as possible. The time during and after exclusion should be used to resolve the situation and make sure that the right support is in place.
If your child has been excluded, it means they have been removed from school and are not allowed to return for a certain amount of days. Scottish Government guidance on preventing and managing exclusion (see link below) is clear that exclusion from school should only be used as a last resort.
There are only two reasons why a child can be excluded from school:
- The school thinks order and discipline in the school and the education of the other pupils will be badly affected if you child continues to attend
- The school thinks you, the parents, have not followed the school’s rules and have allowed your child to break the school
Schools must always give one of these as the reason for the exclusion. Most exclusions take place for the first reason.
The school should:
- On the day of the exclusion: contact you (or your child if they are over 16) to tell you about the exclusion and check it is safe to send your child home. The school must also arrange a meeting with you to discuss the exclusion within 7 days.
- Within 8 days: write to tell you the reason your child was excluded and how you can appeal the exclusion. The school may also let you know of any conditions to be met before your child can return to school.
- Use the time your child is out of school to look at the reasons why the exclusion happened and put in right place any support needed to avoid it happening again.
You can appeal an exclusion through your local authority's Education Appeal Committee (EAC). The EAC is a panel of people who make decisions about educational matters including exclusions. They are usually made up of people from the local area and can include people such as elected councillors, parents and teachers.
The letter from the school telling you your child has been excluded should contain information about how to appeal. Usually you send a letter to the local authority telling them you want to appeal your child's exclusion. It's a good idea to do this as soon as possible after your child has been excluded. The EAC hearing will take place no later than 28 days after they receive your appeal letter.
You can also send the EAC a written statement or any other information you think is important to your child's case. This usually has to be with the EAC 10 days before the hearing. At the hearing, both you and your child's school will have the opportunity to have a say. You are allowed to take a supporter, advocate or witness to the hearing if you wish.
The EAC will either confirm or refuse to confirm the local authority’s decision. If you disagree with the EAC's decision you have 28 days to appeal to the Sheriff Court.
Sometimes schools use different ways to describe, or give different reasons for, removing a child from school. These are sometimes referred to as "informal exclusions" and may include:
- sending a child home early
- suggesting a "cooling-off period"
- saying the child cannot cope with a full day at school.
These are unlawful exclusions and should not be happening.
Schools must formally record all exclusions, and pupils must not be sent home as a way of coping with their additional support needs. If a pupil is sent home on multiple occasions, this usually highlights that the support in place isn’t working and a different approach is needed. If your child is being excluded in this way you should ask your school for a meeting to discuss your child's needs and what can be done to ensure this unlawful practice does not continue.
Ask the school whether there is a pattern of when incidents happen that result in your child being sent home (e.g times of the day or after doing certain activities). If there is a pattern, you can then talk to the school about what support they can put in place around these times or activities.
- ask for a meeting with the head teacher of the school and explain your concerns about your child being sent home or excluded
- ask for a copy of the local authority's exclusion policy
- discuss the support they have in place and review their learning plan if they have one, or discuss whether they may need one
- use the checklist in the Scottish Governments' guidance on managing exclusions (Included, Engaged and Involved Part 2) before talking to the school. This explains what schools should do before excluding a child
- ask the school why your child has been excluded and for the proper procedures to be followed.
Possible conversation starters:
- Can we look at when incidents are happening in case there are particular activities my child is struggling with?
- Can we look at how staff are dealing with my child when he gets upset, and whether there are different strategies we could use?
- My child is being informally excluded. I'd like to discuss her support needs and ask that the correct procedures are followed.