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.
Behaviour Management & Exclusions
Along with ‘political correctness gone mad’ one all-to-often-heard phrase is ‘you can’t say anything nowadays’. When and how can banter give risk to a legal claim, and what should schools do to police that risk?
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:
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:
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’.
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.
The debate on exclusions and alternative provision continues to rage. Following on from our recent articles on exclusions from a head teacher and governor perspective, we turn now to Alternative Provision (AP).
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.
National law firm Stone King LLP has been shortlisted in the Large Law Firm of the Year category of the Law Society’s Excellence Awards 2018.
The firm is one of 10 to be shortlisted in this category. Award winners will be chosen by a panel of expert judges and announced on 17 October 2018 at a ceremony in Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane, London.