Maintained schools in England are now responsible for providing full-time education for excluded pupils from the sixth day of their exclusion
From September 2007, maintained schools in England became responsible for providing full-time education for excluded pupils from the sixth day of their exclusion. This change in the law stems from the recommendations of Sir Alan Steer’s report on school behaviour and discipline which found that a fixed period exclusion is often an ineffective sanction as some pupils may view it as an extra holiday. At present local authorities are only required to provide education for excluded pupils from the 16th day of their exclusion.
Good practice guidance to help schools prepare for the new system has been published and a revised version of the exclusions guidance, Improving Behaviour and Attendance: Guidance on Exclusion from Schools and Pupil Referral Units, was due to be published in July 2007.
The new guide impresses on headteachers the need to involve their governing bodies in the new arrangements, saying that they ‘should inform the governing body of the new requirements and make them aware that failure to fulfil these requirements may result in action being taken against the school’. A critical first step for schools is to estimate the likely demand for education for pupils excluded for fixed periods. In 2004-05 more than 220,000 pupils were excluded for a fixed period, picking up almost 390,000 exclusions between them. Fewer than one in eight of those exclusions was for six days or more (see below).
How many pupils will be affected?
Although the average length of a fixed period exclusion from a maintained school in England is well below six days, there were still 51,510 exclusions of at least six days during 2004-05 – and a third of those were for more than two weeks. These longer exclusions, which will fall under the scope of the new regulations, accounted for 13.2% of all fixed period exclusions. Secondary schools accounted for 85% of all fixed period exclusions; 11% were from primary schools and 4% from special schools. The 220,840 pupils who had one fixed period exclusion or more represented 2.9% of the school population. The majority (63%) were excluded on one occasion only and the average length of a fixed period exclusion was 3.6 days. In addition to using these national figures as a guideline, it is suggested that schools may also use their own behaviour and attendance audit as a basis for assessing likely demand for full-time education. As well as assessing demand simply in terms of numbers, schools should also analyse present exclusions to assess the likely range of pupil needs. The education provided must be for between 21 and 25 hours a week, according to the age of the pupil – the same as full-time hours for pupils in school. It could be provided in another school, in a shared unit or a pupil referral unit, or on premises arranged by a private or voluntary sector education provider. The guidance says that: ‘Schools working together and with their LA will need to exercise judgement to obtain a supply of suitable full-time education which meets the full range of a pupil’s needs and within a limited budget.’ It adds that the DfES does not underestimate the challenge of meeting this requirement, but that: ‘Ideally, schools should have access to a number of options to meet pupils’ differing needs rather than a simple “one size fits all” approach.’ One low-cost option suggested is for two or more schools to agree reciprocal arrangements whereby they each support excluded pupils from other schools in the area. An extension of this idea would be for groups of schools to invest in, and share, an off-site facility. This could be similar to a PRU or a youth centre, or it could be a new venture, run by a private company, a charity or the local authority. Funds to pay for the new provisions, which the government estimates as an additional average cost of £7,000 a year for a full-time place, must come from the announced increases in the Dedicated Schools Grant paid to local authorities.
Providing Full-time Education from the Sixth Day of any Fixed Period Exclusion is available from www.teachernet.gov.uk/exclusion