Headteachers are experiencing more children with challenging behaviours. This, not only, has a direct impact on children’s education but it can also undermine staff morale.
What is a school behaviour policy
Under Section 89(1) of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 schools should have a behaviour policy which regulates the conduct of its pupils. It should set out the measures it will use to promote good behaviour, self-discipline and respect within the school grounds. It should also describe the measures it will employ to prevent bullying and ensure its pupils complete assigned work.
For state maintained schools it is the responsibility of a Headteacher to decide the standard of behaviour it expects and what the penalties will be if a behaviour policy is breached by a student. It must be publicised in writing and made available to staff, parents and pupils at least once a year. Furthermore, the policy must be published on the school’s website.
It’s slightly different for Academies. Under the Education (Independent School Standards) (England) Regulations 2014, the proprietor of an Academy school must create and implement a written behaviour policy. They are not required to publish it on their website, but it is good practice to do so, and the policy should be made available to parents upon their request.
Schools certainly have the legal right to impose reasonable sanctions if a member of staff sees a pupil misbehaving. These can include:
- a reprimand
- a letter to the student’s parent(s) or carer(s)
- removal from a classroom or group
- loss of privileges
- confiscating something from a child if it’s deemed to be inappropriate for school
Meanwhile, for a punishment to be deemed lawful it must fulfil the following conditions:
- The decision must have been made by a paid member of school staff;
- The decision and the punishment itself must be made on the school premises or while the pupil is under the charge of the member of staff;
- The punishment must not breach any other legislation (e.g. discrimination) and it must be reasonable in all circumstances.
However, The term ‘reasonable’ obviously’ flags up a wide open net for interpretation but, fortunately, we are specialist education solicitors with experience in advising schools on a range of disciplinary issues.
School Discipline Policies and Procedures
- We can advise the school on the content of the disciplinary policy and whether it complies with the relevant law
- We can examine the governing body procedures for considering exclusions, including the content of decision letters and the management of governing body hearings
Expelling a child is usually the last resort for a school and it often follows ongoing behavioural sanctions. However, there are inevitably times when a child’s parent or carer challenges this decision.
The route through which this can be raised depends on the severity of the exclusion. If against a fixed timeframe of 5 or more days then the appeal must be sent to the School Governors. If it’s against permanent exclusion then they must initially go through the School Governors within 15 school days. If they don’t overturn the decision of the Headteacher then a parent or carer can ask for an independent review to be carried out by the local council or Academy trust.
Legal Advice on Excluding a Child From School
At Legal4Schools, our solicitors can provide your school with solid legal advice on when it may be appropriate to exclude a child:
- We can advice schools on the steps which can be taken when a school identifies a child is at risk of exclusion;
- Advise when a school is dealing with child who exhibits special educational needs (SEN) or a disability and are at risk of exclusion (either on a fixed term basis or permanently);
- Advise the school on managed moves and the steps that need to be taken to protect the school's position. It is important for schools not to rely on local authority managed move protocols. They do not necessarily protect the school from being challenged in the event of being unable to find a suitable placement;
- Assist in the drafting of exclusion letters to fully justify the decision to exclude and the steps which have been taken by the school to avoid the use of exclusion. As parental challenges are increasing it is important for schools not to rely too heavily on template exclusion letters;
- Advise you on your school’s duty to provide education during a fixed period exclusion
School Exclusion Appeals
- Our Education solicitors can also support your school in handling exclusion appeals, whether they are fixed term or permanent exclusions;
- We can prepare the case statement for the school in the event of an appeal against an exclusion by parents;
- In the case of a permanent exclusion we can help you prepare your defense in the event that a parent appeals to an Independent Appeal Panel;
- We can also provide you with representation at the Independent Appeal Panel hearing and can help you prepare the School's case;
- Challenge the decisions of Independent Appeal Panels where they have made an error of law