Introducing a statutory duty on headteachers when sending an excluded pupil home is ill-advised, the National Headteachers Association said today following an appeal in the House of Lords.
Conservative peer Lord Lupton today encouraged the government to introduce a higher duty of care on headteachers when excluding children under the age of 16 from their schools.
This follows reports of London school children being excluded as a result of anti-social behaviour.
Lord Lupton said the government should revise regulations so headteachers are required to release excluded pupils to a parent, guardian or approved carer.
It was stressed that if there is no responsible adult to take children home following an exclusion, children will be left wandering the streets.
The School Exclusion Project (SEP) cited a case where a 14-year-old girl received eight temporary exclusions for disruptive behaviour and regularly missing class.
On each occasion she left the school unaccompanied with a letter for her parents notifying them of the period of her exclusion. This resulted in further disruptive behaviour and her eventually being permanently excluded.
“Had there been a higher duty on her headteacher to ensure she be met by an appropriate adult then she may well still be attending that school,” the organisation said.
Headteachers follow best practice
The National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) is adamant that headteachers are communicating with the parents or guardians of excluded school children before sending them home.
Russell Hobby, General secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, told Westminster World that enforcing a statutory duty on heads is ill-advised.
“We don’t believe that making this a statutory duty will help school leaders, parents or children themselves,” he said.
According to Hobby, headteachers are ensuring that parents or guardians meet their children at the school gates.
“It is right that schools talk to parents before sending an excluded child home; this is best practice and something we see heads doing anyway.”
Alternatively, it can be agreed with the parents or guardians that their child can make their own way home, he confirmed. If neither of these options are possible, the child should be housed in the school until a time when the parent or guardian can meet them.
“Indeed, there is already a safeguarding duty on heads, which ensures the wellbeing of children is paramount.”
Clearer guidance from government
The Department for Education’s (DfE) School Exclusion Guidance states that, in the event of excluding a pupil, heads should notify parents of the period of the exclusion and the reasons for it without delay.
Hobby believes the Department’s instruction on talking to parents could be clearer.
“The DfE’s guidance could better reflect the best practice we are seeing out there already,” he said. “But developing another statutory duty on heads, at a time when more and more is being asked of them, will not deliver for pupils.”
Labour peer Lord Watson echoed this in the House of Lords. He said while Dfe guidelines could be amended to better reflect best practice currently followed by headteachers, adding a further statutory duty would be “neither necessary nor appropriate”.