Permanently excluding a child is an act in which a school decides,
plans, and then carries out the traumatic punishment of rejecting that
child. There is no moral argument to justify saying to a child that they
are no longer wanted by the institution whose function is to act in loco
parentis for a substantial period of that child’s life.
Why is this important?
In state-run schools, and in private schools, where at least part of the funding
came from government, corporal punishment was outlawed by the British
Parliament in 1986, following a 1982 ruling by the European Court of Human
Rights that such punishment could not be administered without parental
consent, and that a child’s “right to education” could not be infringed by
suspending children who, with parental approval, refused to submit to corporal
It became apparent that hitting children in school was morally wrong and now
it is illegal. Permanently excluding a child is an act in which a school decides,
plans, and then executes the traumatic punishment of rejection. The
similarity with the decision making, planning and then execution of a
physical attack on a child is painfully obvious. There is no moral argument to
justify saying to a child they are no longer wanted by the institution that is set
up to act in loco parentis for a substantial period of that child’s life.
The first objection to making permanent exclusion illegal will inevitably be that
schools cannot cope with the behaviour of some children and they need to be
able to safeguard other children and staff. In order to make permanent
exclusions illegal this objection has to be answered to the complete
satisfaction of both teachers and parents. If the law were to change then it
would have to be accompanied by an increase in school budgets to ensure
they are able to adequately fund the options that are available instead of
permanently excluding the child. This proposal fully recognises that this is a
pre-requisite and requires all those who might support this movement to sign
up to ensuring schools are able to deliver their new statutory duty and ensure
all their children receive a full-time education until their legal school leaving
The moral argument for not permanently excluding a child is clear. If for a
minute you ignore the reason for the permanent exclusion, then the action of
removing a child from its school is a traumatic event which inevitably has
consequences for the child. Put simply it is a rejection of the child by an
organisation which is charged with acting as a good parent while it educates
them. The act of a permanent exclusion (rejection) is not one a good parent
would countenance and yet we allow schools to do this based on the excuse
that there was no other option. We aim to prove this is a false premise which
allows schools to abdicate all responsibility for a child who they were
supposed to nurture and educate.
To demonstrate the number and variety of options a school can already use
instead of a permanent exclusion the following list (which is not exhaustive)
has been assembled:
1. Part time timetables
2. Temporary exclusion while other options are sought.
3. Managed move to another school
7. Move to a pupil referral unit
8. Move to a special school
9. Alternative education providers
10. Early move to college
- 78% of pupils who are permanently excluded either have SEN, are classified
as in need or are eligible for free school meals.
- 11% of permanently excluded children have all three characteristics Boys with social, emotional, and mental health difficulties (SEMH) but no statement are around 3.8 times more likely to be permanently excluded than a
- SEMH girls are around 3 times more likely. Children in receipt of Free School Meals are around 45% more likely to be excluded than other pupils
- Black Caribbean are around 1.7 times more likely, and Mixed White and Black
Caribbean children were around 1.6 times more likely, to be permanently excluded compared to White British children.
- Children on a Children in Need plan are around 4 times more likely to be
permanently excluded compared to those with no social care classification
Children who have a Child Protection Plan are around 3.5 times more likely to
be permanently excluded.
- Children who are looked after are around 2.3 times as likely to be permanently
excluded than children who have never been supported by social care.
It is clear that if you are a vulnerable child, you are far more likely to be
excluded than those who are not vulnerable.
It is perverse that the children in most need of stability, understanding and
support are those who are far more likely to be rejected by the very people
who are paid to prepare them for adulthood.
This campaign seeks to make permanent exclusions illegal whilst promoting
fair funding to support schools so they can organise education that does not
include the trauma inflicted on children who become permanently excluded. It
also wishes to promote the use of whole school training in order to enable
schools to recognise and support children for whom previous trauma and/or
attachment difficulties are at the heart of their behaviour problems. It is
important for all school staff to be aware that many young people have
suffered trauma in their early years and know how to help them overcome the
impact this often has on their ability to learn and socialise. We believe all
schools should be willing to train their staff so the number of incidents leading
to exclusions can be dramatically reduced. Strategies such as Emotion
Coaching and Conflict Resolution can be extremely helpful in this area and
many schools have drastically reduced their exclusion rates after such
training. It is the very antithesis of the “zero tolerance” discipline policies
where permanent exclusion is regarded as a legitimate form of blackmail in an
attempt to frighten a child into conforming.
The IRCT is starting this national campaign in order to encourage all schools,
politicians, and parents to come up with a different system than the current
one which officially tells children they are no longer wanted by their school.
Many of the children permanently excluded have already suffered Adverse
Childhood Experiences. To officially inflect another trauma on these children is
both cruel and unnecessary.
All children permanently excluded are still legally entitled to a full-time
education which the local authority has to provide. Why then does there have
to be a formal rejection of the child in order to try and find suitable education
for these children? Surely the organisation that knows them best should be
central to ensuring any new plan addresses the needs of the child.