Emotive, often to an almost explosive degree, exclusion is a word that, unlike marmite, which can be a case of like or dislike, brings forth bile from different standpoints, aimed at people who may hold contrary positions. The extremes of any behaviour-related decisions are likely never to agree.
For what it’s worth, I think schools should have the option to exclude a child, for example to safeguard the others physically or mentally, from violence or bullying. But, I would expect there to be records of intervention or of general school approaches that ensure that civic expectations are articulated, carried through, or lived in daily life through the adult models.
Where, in a former existence, I visited schools to look at their inclusion approaches, those operating in very challenging environments had multiple layers of intervention, should that be necessary, enabling either staff or children to support self-regulation, or to seek to stabilise an individual when situations became untenable. At the extreme, and despite their best efforts, these schools held to the option of exclusion.
In an even earlier existence, as a headteacher for sixteen years, I excluded two children during that time.
I wrote about the school behaviour policy in an earlier blog, but, to simplify, as a Primary school, we had three principles, based on responsibility for self, behaviour towards others and towards our environment. These were enhanced by the adoption of the Hampshire Constabulary “Five Golden Rules”. The essence of these complementary approaches allowed stories from wide sources in assembles, exploration of narratives in class from class books, PSHE, or P4C. They also supported restorative discussions when children, inevitably, fell out.
One of the exclusions resulted in a “fair cop” approach by the parent, with relatively easy restoration.
The other resulted in a file that will stay in my loft for a further five years, even though I am technically retired. In many ways, it should have been another easy restoration, but one of the parents decided to appeal to the Governors, which resulted in a hearing, finding for my decision. That resulted in an appeal to the local area education officer, again finding in my favour, followed by a County investigation, by which time the child had moved school and been excluded, resulting in the head having a Governor review, which found in their favour… you know the rest.
In the meantime, my email inbox was full of regular missives with invective that I have rarely heard, even during a rugby and other sport earlier life, but which I printed on a “just in case” basis.
It was the call from the Department for Children, Families and Schools (DCFS), one of the incarnations of the current DoE, that became worrying, as they were then investigating a complaint against the County. A senior official would be visiting to investigate the original situation, to seek to understand the background and the dynamics of the situation. The multiple-page report found in favour of the County and all associated. We waited for any subsequent escalation of the appeals process, perhaps to some form of judicial review.
The several months that this process took were distracting, demoralising and destabilising for many people, throughout the County. Keeping one’s mind on the day job required significant focus. It often reminded me of the truism, that headship can be a very lonely job; there were things I couldn’t share, with anyone.
Exclusion is never to be taken lightly.
The ripples affect many people in many ways, and, in extreme cases, for many years. My thoughts go out to any head facing complex situations.