Inquiry reports evidence of schools excluding illegally

An inquiry by the Children’s Commissioner for England, Dr Maggie Atkinson, has revealed evidence of schools illegally excluding pupils.

Publishing the report of the findings of her eight-month inquiry on school exclusions, Dr Atkinson said: ‘For the first time schools are on record saying they had illegally excluded pupils. Due to the informal nature of such exclusions it is difficult to know how widespread this practice is but it is worth further examination.’

Clear evidence of illegal exclusions ranged from Year 11 students being sent home at Christmas and told not to come back until their exams in June, to ‘informal’ exclusions where a pupil would be told verbally, with no correspondence with parents, to go home for a few days, or not to come back before the school had interviewed their parents.

The report called on the government to conduct research to identify the full extent of unlawful exclusions, and to recommend measures to prevent a small proportion of schools continuing to act in this way.

Dr Atkinson also asked the secretary of state for a full investigation ‘as a matter of urgency’ into allegations made to the inquiry by a barrister specialising in education law that some academies are illegally stopping students from appealing against exclusions, saying their funding contracts are between the school and government, and do not include rights for the child or family.

She also called for concerted action to reduce the influence of four key factors – gender, special educational needs, ethnicity and poverty – on the likelihood of pupils being excluded.

‘One stark figure should make us all want to confront this scandal,’ she said. ‘In 2009-10, if you were a black African-Caribbean boy with special needs and eligible for free school meals you were 168 times more likely to be permanently excluded from a state-funded school than a white girl without special needs from a middle-class family.’

By David Gordon