New school exclusion guidance removed

New government guidance on school exclusions has been removed, less than a month after it took effect.

The guidance document – entitled “Exclusion from maintained schools, academies and pupil referral units in England: from 5 January 2015” – was issued by the Department for Education in December but was withdrawn by School Reform Minister Nick Gibb on 2 February.

The Department for Education said it had been removed to “address some issues with process and we will be issuing updated guidance in due course”.

It added: “Reviewing bodies (such as governing bodies, independent review panels, management committees, and proprietors) should have regard to the exclusion guidance issued in September 2012 when reviewing exclusion decisions taken between 5 January to 1 February 2015.”

Just for Kids Law, which provides advocacy, support and assistance to young people in difficulty, including those in trouble with the law, looked after children and those at risk of exclusion from school, had threatened to initiate legal action over the new guidance.

It said that under the 2012 guidance, a child could only be permanently excluded from school in circumstances where allowing them to remain would “seriously harm the education or welfare of the pupil or others in school”.

The 2015 guidance amended the threshold for exclusion to “where a pupil’s behaviour means allowing the pupil to remain in school would be detrimental to the education or welfare of the pupil or others in the school.”

Just for Kids Law argued that the Department for Education had failed to consult on the new policy and that it took no account of what it described as “the likely disproportionate impact” on ethnic minority pupils and children with special educational needs.

The Department for Education wrote to Just for Kids Law on 30 January, saying it believed “a case has been made about the process followed in modifying the guidance for it to be reconsidered to make absolutely sure that all relevant matters have been taken into account.” The letter added that equalities issues would form an integral part of that reconsideration.

Rachel Knowles of Just for Kids Law said: “We are pleased and relieved that the government has now withdrawn these changes. We are encouraged to hear the department say that equality issues will be at the heart of any new guidance, and look forward to a full public consultation on the issue.”

Palmers can provide expert advice on a range of education issues, including exclusions, to support school leaders and governors. Other areas of expertise include health and safety, employment law, property and company law, which is particularly relevant to academies. For more information, please contact BJ Chong.