Childrens CommissionerHundreds of children are being sent home from school illegally when support for them is not available, a report has found.

The report, Always Someone Else’s Problem, by Dr Maggie Atkinson, Children's Commissioner for England, found that 2.7% of schools have sent children with statements of SEN home when their carer, classroom support or teaching assistant is unavailable.

Other schools were placing 'disruptive' pupils on "extended study leave", reduced timetables or into alternative schooling as a means of removing them, and in some cases urging parents to educate them at home or find another school. 

School Exclusions Inquiry 
The report includes the findings of the School Exclusions Inquiry, which suggests that "an unnacceptably large proportion" of schools are acting illegal. 

Other common forms of illegal exclusion included:
• Failing to follow proper procedures to record exclusions. These exclusions are usually for short periods, but they may be frequently repeated with the same child, causing them to miss substantial periods of education
• Placing pupils on ‘extended study leave’, on part-time timetables, or at inappropriate and questionable quality ‘alternative provision’, as a way of removing them from school
• Coercing parents into moving their child to a different school, or expecting them to ‘educate them at home’, under threat of permanent exclusion
• Encouraging children to stay at home rather than attend school.

Ignorance of exclusions laws 
The reasons for such exclusions included ignorance of the law on exclusions, no public body – with the partial exception of Ofsted – doing enough to identify and reduce it and the lack of meaningful sanctions against illegal exclusions.

“The decision about whether to exclude a pupil is always a tough call but schools must make sure they remain within the law when doing so,” said the Children's Commissioner.

“Everyone working in education needs to pay closer attention to the issue of illegal exclusions and consider the implications it has on the individual child, as well as the impact their behaviour has on fellow pupils. We are not saying ‘never exclude' but ‘do your very best not to and if you must, do so within the law'. Asking the parents of a disabled child to repeatedly take them home early simply due to a lack of support is unacceptable.”

Authorised absent
The anonymous survey of 200 head teachers for the report suggests that 6.7% of schools have sent children home for disciplinary reasons without recording it as an exclusion. This equates to about 1,600 schools in England.

It indicates 2.1% have recorded pupils as "authorised absent" or "educated elsewhere" when the school has in fact encouraged them to stay at home.

Moving On to Secondary School  
The report comes a day after the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities (FPLD) launched new guidelines based to support pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN) in making the transition from primary to secondary school.

With recent Department of Education figures showing that more than half of pupils with a statement of SEN are placed in mainstream schools, the FPLD has called for pupils to be more involved in the transition planning process.

Unnerving and stressful move

Jill Davies, research programme manager at the FPLD, said: "We’ve heard from young people themselves how unnerving and stressful the move to secondary school can be, and while schools work hard to ensure the transition goes as smoothly as possible for pupils with SEN needs, it is high time they were put in the driving seat.

"By working with pupils to identify small, achievable steps in the journey, parents, teachers and SENCOs can work harmoniously to bring a greater sense of belonging to the school community and a positive impact on confidence and self-esteem for even the most vulnerable children."

To download the guides visit: www.learningdisabilities.org.uk/our-work/employment-education/moving-on-to-secondary-school/

Posted 24/04/2013 by dan.parton@pavpub.com