New powers for schools to exclude disruptive pupils were announced yesterday by Gillian Shephard, the Secretary of State for Education and Employment. Her announcement came as new research revealed that the dice in exclusion cases are already weighted heavily against parents and children and in favour of schools.
An education bill to be published shortly will limit parents' right to choose a school once their child had been excluded twice. It will also give schools the right to representation at independent appeal panels on exclusions and will impose on panels the duty to consider the interests of the other schoolchildren.
Yet research from London University's Institute of Education shows that appeals panels overturn heads' and gov- ernors' decisions in only 0.5 per cent of cases. Dr David Gillborn's review of exclusions research shows that many pupils are being excluded for comparatively minor cases of indiscipline, a breach of government rules. Parents who try to challenge heads' and governors' decisions find schools do not tell them of their rights. The injustice of many exclusion decisions is all the more serious because fewer than one in three excluded pupils ever returns to school, according to the study. The research challenges commonly held views about exclusion. Only a minority of pupils is permanently excluded for bullying and attacking pupils and teachers, says Dr Gillborn. "In practice exclusion is used much more widely than the official definition would allow." Only 3.2 per cent of parents lodge an appeal against their child's exclusion, according to the research. …