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School Exclusions

Volume 559: debated on Monday 4 March 2013

6. What steps he is taking to ensure that no children with disabilities or additional needs are illegally excluded from school. (145457)

We have issued new statutory guidance setting out schools’ responsibilities on exclusion, making it clear that discrimination against disabled pupils is unlawful and emphasising the importance of stepping in early to address the underlying causes of disruptive behaviour. Early identification and intervention also underpin the Government’s planned reforms to the special educational needs system and a new approach to exclusion that the Government are trialling in a number of local authority areas.

I thank the Minister for that response, and he will be aware of Contact a Family’s survey of more than 400 families of children with disabilities and additional needs. It found that 22% of these children are illegally excluded at least once a week and 15% are illegally excluded every day for part of the day, with the most common reasons given being that there were not enough support staff to help or that the child had what the teacher described as “a bad day”. There are no sanctions against schools that carry out these exclusions and Ofsted does not take them into account in its reports, so what can be done to ensure that schools abide by the guidelines?

I am aware of the Contact a Family report, which was completely right to emphasise that schools should act lawfully and follow the correct procedures. Ofsted has an important role to play in this regard and, with the new criteria on behaviour and leadership, it will look carefully at where illegal exclusions are taking place, will take them seriously and will take them into account when making its overall judgment on a school’s performance. Our trials in 11 local authorities will give a greater incentive for schools to think carefully about what happens after they exclude a pupil and they will have to take greater responsibility.

I am grateful to the Minister for setting out how those trials are proceeding. Has he any information to share with the House on how the new process for dealing with exclusions is following on from the Education Act 2011?

My hon. Friend will have heard me refer to the new statutory guidance, which we issued last September, and the new code of practice will strengthen the arrangements for dealing with children with SEN to make sure that there is a clear focus on ensuring that no illegal exclusions take place in future. I am happy to discuss that with him if he wishes to do so.

I have already set out Ofsted’s role in this area and, clearly, we take any judgment of inadequacy that it makes extremely seriously. As a Minister in the Department, the Secretary of State has powers of intervention that we can use, if necessary, where we feel that a school is failing to provide a fair and adequate level of education; clearly, the factor of illegal exclusions will have to be taken into account.