Behaviour Management & Exclusions

School punishments – what is ‘reasonable’ or ‘usual?’

We have come a long way in terms of what are considered to be reasonable sanctions in schools. Gone are the days of the Victorian school era where pupils were likely to receive punishments eliciting fear, shame, embarrassment and anxiety and this would be supported by the courts. Since then the government has banned corporal punishment and set out guidance in the form of the Behaviour and Discipline in Schools which states what are acceptable (and reasonable) punishments in schools.

Updates to the DfE Governance Handbook

The DfE recently published an update to its governance handbook (the “Handbook”), which provides information about the role, responsibilities and legal duties of governing bodies in maintained schools, academies and multi academy trusts.

The revised Handbook strengthens the DfE’s guidance in relation to parental engagement, accountability and oversight, workload considerations, and safeguarding.

We set out the Handbook’s key updates which may affect how you govern your school:

Can I remove this pupil from the roll?

Removing pupils from the school roll has been a frequent issue in the media recently. Unsurprisingly, therefore, we are often asked by schools whether they can lawfully remove a pupil from the roll. The rules are relatively straightforward.

The circumstances in which a school can lawfully take this action are limited and specific and are found in the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006, regulation 8. Where the child is of compulsory school-age they can be removed from the roll if:

Discipline in schools: from ‘isolation rooms’ to ‘community service’ – what is reasonable

Schools may be feeling rather unsure as to which sanctions might be considered to be ‘reasonable’ in light of the recent news exposé of schools’ use of ‘isolation rooms’ and community service with pupils wearing hi-vis bibs. Indeed, legal proceedings have been lodged against one academy trust for its use of ‘isolation’ or ‘consequence rooms’.

Pupil exclusions: who has the right to know?

The Department for Education has previously reported that exclusions in schools are on the rise. The number of permanent exclusions in 2016/17 rose to 7,720, and it is estimated that an average of 2,010 fixed period exclusions took place each day in the same academic year. With this in mind, schools should ensure they are familiar with the procedure once a pupil has been excluded from the school.

Exclusions not made by head

Despite the continued focus on exclusions and exclusion-like activities, some very basic issues can get overlooked. Everyone is now clear that exclusion can only be on disciplinary grounds but is it equally clear that only the head teacher (“HT”) of a school can exclude a pupil and that if the exclusion is made by any other person it risks being challenged on the grounds that it is unlawful? Whilst this may sound easy to observe, the potential for schools to get this wrong is increasing.


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