If your child has been excluded from school
Has your child been excluded from school, either permanently or for a fixed term? Or are you worried that they might be? Do you think your child’s exclusion is related to their deafness or other disability?
Most parents don’t need to worry about their child being excluded from school, but it’s important that you know what to do if it does happen.
Is it legal for schools to exclude a disabled child?
That depends on the answers to these questions
- Does your child meet the definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010 (England, Scotland and Wales) or the Disability Discrimination (Northern Ireland) Order 2005?
These laws define disability as “a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”.
Most deaf children will meet this definition unless their deafness is temporary, for example, caused by glue ear and expected to last less than 12 months.
- Does the school know that your child is deaf (or has any other disability)?
- Is the exclusion related to your child’s disability?
For example, an exclusion for drug-taking is not likely to be related to a disability. On the other hand, if a deaf child with autism is excluded for challenging behaviour, the exclusion may be related to their disability.
Unless the answer to all three questions is yes disability discrimination law doesn’t apply. If you did answer yes to all three, then there are more questions to consider.
- Can the school justify the exclusion on the grounds of health and safety (or any other legitimate reason)? If not, the exclusion may amount to discrimination. If it can justify the exclusion, the next question is:
- Are there any reasonable adjustments the school could have made to avoid the events or behaviour which led to the exclusion?
If not, then it’s unlikely that you could argue that discrimination has taken place. If there are things the school could have done, but didn’t, you could argue that the school has discriminated against your child by failing to make reasonable adjustments.
What is a reasonable adjustment?
A reasonable adjustment is a change the school/nursery/college (or any other service provider) makes so that a disabled child can do something which they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to do. Education settings must make reasonable adjustments to support a disabled child. Here are some examples of reasonable adjustments:
Deafness makes it difficult for your child to understand and take part in lessons.
Providing basic deaf awareness training for all staff in your child’s school.
Your child’s behaviour can be challenging, especially when they’re tired or don’t understand what’s being said/going on.
Creating a behaviour management plan which identifies the challenging behaviours, what triggers them and how to deal with them.
Your child is forgetting to do their homework because they can’t listen to the teacher’s explanation of the homework and write it down at the same time.
Teachers printing out homework tasks before a lesson, so that your child isn’t expected to listen and write at the same time.
What can I do if I think my child’s exclusion amounts to disability discrimination?
Make sure that you get a full explanation of the reasons for the exclusion. If your child has behavioural difficulties ask to see a copy of their behaviour management plan (see below).
You have the right to appeal against the exclusion. The school should have given you information about how to appeal when they excluded your child.
You may also want to make a disability discrimination appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal. For more information go to The Equality Act and your child's education.
If you live in Northern Ireland disability discrimination in schools comes under The Special Educational Needs and Disability (Northern Ireland) Order 2005 (SENDO). You can download a short guide to SENDO or contact the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland for more information.
If my child has behavioural difficulties, what should the school be doing to avoid them being excluded?
Managing a disabled child’s behaviour is a reasonable adjustment. If your child’s behaviour is often difficult, you have the right to expect there to be measures in place to help prevent the difficult behaviour or respond to it if it can’t be prevented. This should be recorded in a behaviour management plan (or in an individual education plan or other internal planning document about your child). Good behaviour management involves:
- identifying the undesirable behaviour
- identifying what triggers the undesirable behaviour
- devising strategies to help prevent the behaviour or to deal with it consistently if it can’t be prevented.
Can schools impose unofficial exclusions, such as asking me to collect my child early or take them out of school at lunchtime?
No. Asking you to be responsible for your child during any part of a school day is unlawful, regardless of whether or not your child is disabled. If the school believes that there is good reason to exclude your child, they must follow the appropriate procedure, notifying you formally in writing. A lunchtime exclusion counts as half a day, as does being asked to bring your child in late or pick them up early.
Are there different types of exclusion?
Yes. Exclusions can be for a fixed term or permanent. Either way, the school should let you know immediately (usually by phone) and then inform you in writing as soon as possible. All exclusions must be formally recorded and there are limits to how many days a child can be excluded (unless the exclusion if permanent).