Call to fine schools that illegally exclude poorly performing pupils

The Observer reports that ministers are being urged to fine schools that are informally excluding poorly performing pupils, amid mounting evidence that some institutions are attempting to game the exam system.

Hundreds of cases of children being removed from schools on tenuous and potentially illegal grounds have been reported to a charity offering legal advice to parents. Experts blame the rise of so-called “off-rolling” on schools that are under pressure to improve performance.

Children with special educational needs and disabilities (Send) are thought to be the most affected by the informal methods designed to move them out of a school without recording their departure as an official exclusion. With pressure mounting on the Department for Education to act, Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, said some schools were “abandoning their responsibility” to give a decent education to their children.

She told the Observer it was “increasingly clear that some schools are gaming the system by taking children they think won’t get good results off their rolls before they sit their exams. Any school that does this is abandoning their responsibility to children, passing the buck to others who are often ill-equipped and don’t have the support they need to provide a good education. As a result, very vulnerable children are falling through the gaps in the education system, increasing the chances they will then go on to lead difficult adult lives.”

Richard Oldershaw, senior legal consultant of the Child Law Advice Service (CLAS), run by the charity Coram, said: “In the last 20 months, CLAS advised about schools exclusions in 1,704 calls. In a quarter of the calls relating to exclusions from primary schools, the adviser concluded that the school may have acted unlawfully, either by not complying with the correct procedures or because it did not adequately consider the child’s special educational needs.”

The Observer has been contacted by several people claiming they are aware of cases of children being unfairly excluded in ways that are not captured by official figures. One child psychologist said they had come across an “astonishing” case in a south-east comprehensive that was the worst they had encountered in 12 years.

The student, currently living in care, was excluded on a second warning without any consultation with their support team in the first month following the takeover of a school deemed to be failing.

The student was subjected to a so-called “managed move” and shifted to a pupil referral unit, where other students at the unit were walking out of lessons and insulting teachers. Repeated attempts to meet the leadership at the pupil’s original school were ignored.

Read the full article Call to fine schools that illegally exclude poorly performing pupils

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