Absence & exclusions

If your child or young person has a long term medical condition, school attendance can be a big issue.

Contact parent adviser Lesley Black spoke to TheSchoolRun.com recently about what the law says about absence from school because of health reason and how schools should support you and your child.

School should also try and help your child fit back into school after a lengthy absence.

View Contact’s webpage for more advice on help with medical needs, absence from school and home education.

SEND school exclusions

padlocked gates

Children with special educational needs and/or disability are much more likely to be excluded from school than their classmates, according to SEND legal charity IPSEA, the Independent Parental Special Education Advice service.

It says too many children and young people with SEN and disabilities are excluded illegally.  These might be unofficial or informal exclusions (even with parent or carer consent these are illegal.)

These commonly include:

  • picking them up from school early,
  • collecting children at lunchtime to “cool off” or avoid an exclusion
  • not coming in on certain days
  • being in school on a part-time timetable.

Remember: any exclusion of a pupil, even for a short period of time, must be formally recorded.  And lunchtime exclusions must be recorded as a half day fixed exclusion.

UK charity Contact has this advice:

It’s important to remember that a child can only be legally excluded from school for disciplinary reasons. A head teacher must formally tell parents that their child will be excluded by giving them details in writing. Any other exclusions are illegal. If you think your child may have been illegally excluded or you need advice on the exclusion process, visit Contact’s exclusion webpage or contact its helpline on 0808 808 3555.

Know your rights – parents’ guide

Do you know your parent and children’s rights when it comes to accessing education for your children with autism or other special educational needs? Find out more by reading Ambitious about Autism’s parent guide. It sets out the legal duties around admissions, exclusions, disability discrimination, and a number of other areas relevant to children with autism missing out on education

Cambridgeshire County Council inclusion advice

Schools must:

  • Inform parents of a decision to exclude on the day the decision is made and follow this up with a letter
  • State the reasons for the exclusion and the number of days
  • Provide school work and mark it for the first 5 days of any exclusion
  • Inform parents their child must not be in a public place within school hours during the first 5 days
  • Provide education from the 6th consecutive day of any single exclusion
  • Let parents know who to contact if they are unhappy with the decision to exclude
  • Re-admit the pupil at the end of the exclusion
  • Only issue a permanent exclusion in response to a serious breach or breaches of the school’s behaviour policy and where allowing the pupil to remain in school would seriously harm the education or welfare of others in the school
  • Fully investigate the incident and give the pupil the opportunity to explain from their viewpoint
  • Take any contributing factors/mitigating circumstances into account including having regard to SEND and calling an emergency review where appropriate
    Immediately inform parents and the local authority of the decision
  • Ensure that a Governors’ Discipline Committee is convened within 15 working days at a time convenient to all parties

See the full advice from the Local Authority here.

Schools must not:

  • Ask parents to keep their child at home without a formal exclusion being issued
  • Insist on parents attending a meeting before the pupil can return
  • Exclude for non-disciplinary reasons
  • Impose a reduced timetable or a Managed Move without parental consent

pull out advice for parents on school exclusions

Returning to school after an absence

It can be hard for children and young people to return to school after an absence, whatever the reason. This was particularly evident when students returned after school closures related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of the restoration and recovery phase of COVID-19, a series of videos were put together by the Cambridgeshire SEND Services in partnership with Pinpoint. The 7 videos offer an accessible introduction to the latest research and guidance related to topics such as boosting resilience, developing emotional literacy and emotional regulation and managing anxiety. There are ideas for effecting change and managing transition at home, as well as guidance on the language that we can use to support children and young people in distress.

Although the videos were developed with the return after COVID-19 in mind, they offer a really useful resource that may be useful for anyone who is returning to a setting after an extended absence.