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Schools in Southwark will stop kicking kids out for behaving badly under new council plans. (South London Press)

The recent press coverage of Southwark’s ZERO school exclusion policy is not entirely accurate. Headteachers in Southwark agreed to a 100% inclusion policy, which is quite different to a zero-exclusion policy.

When people talk about exclusion, they automatically picture a child expelled from school. That word is very emotive. When school leaders state, ‘Every Child Matters’ and ‘every child should be included and no child excluded from learning’, it has a different meaning.

Schools have been working to include all children in schools since the Warnock report of the 1970’s, and we are getting better at it.

Schools exclude children as a last resort. More often, all strategies are exhausted when the decision for the headteacher to exclude is decided. I have sat in meetings where the SENCo, class teachers, tutors and pastoral leads have looked for alternatives to exclusion… sometimes unfortunately there are none.

OFSTED, the office which represents parents, monitor the exclusion rates of schools. All schools want to be good or outstanding. One permanent exclusion or too many fixed term exclusions would put a school at risk of receiving a positive outcome after an inspection.

How do we address the disproportionality of Black children in school being excluded?

We need a broader understanding of Anti-Racist Education and Trauma Informed teaching and leadership. As I have stated in previous posts, and in the work I do with schools I quote, ‘Talking to white people about racism is not being judgmental but being racist is’. Primary school children do not see or understand racism, they do what children do, mirror adult behaviour.

What is the solution?

Advocates for parents to become better informed and have a secure understanding of the school’s behaviour and discipline policies. Be sure you have the historical context for the reasons culminating in an exclusion.

Become a school governor.

As governors, we ensure, when our schools exclude this is the last resort. We look at all the strategies that were put in place to support the child before a decision to exclude has taken place.

There are reasons a school can permanently exclude a child instantly:

  • Possession of an offensive weapon (knife, gun, CS spray)
  • Serious assault (sexual, physical), not a scrap in the playground
  • Possession or distribution of drugs (not a smell)
  • Persistent disruptive behaviour (the parents have will have been informed by the school repeatedly about their child’s behaviour, with warnings of exclusion)
  • Assault on a member of staff

Schools and parents need to work together to secure 100% inclusion for their child and other children.

I wrote this article in 2020 to support parents understand the school exclusion process.

Anthony Peltier IFG Publishing

July 2022

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