Included, engaged and involved part 2: preventing and managing school exclusions

Part two of guidance document 'Included, Engaged and Involved', which refreshes the national policy on school exclusions.

Section 7: The Consideration of Individual Circumstances in the Exclusion Process

This section outlines the individual circumstances that should be taken into account when excluding a child or young person from school, particularly with regard to those children or young people who have additional support needs, a disability, are looked after, or where there are child protection concerns. Excluding a child or young person from school, whatever their individual circumstances, is an extremely serious step. It can have a serious impact upon learning and their future outcomes.

Therefore, in all circumstances it is necessary to consider whether the exclusion will lead to improved outcomes for the child or young person. Targeted support should be explored and exhausted to ensure the on-going wellbeing and stability of placement of the child or young person, with exclusion from school always being the last resort.

Statistics suggest that exclusion is more prevalent amongst certain groups of children: those with an assessed or declared disability; looked after children and young people; children and young people from the most deprived areas; and those with additional support needs, particularly if that additional support need is social, emotional and behavioural. Consequently, for some of the groups that are highlighted, there are additional factors that need to be considered.

Prior to the decision to exclude being made discussions with the child or young person, their parent(s), and any involved professionals should take place, where possible. Where the decision is to exclude, other professionals involved, such as social workers, family support workers etc., should be made aware of the situation. Education authorities should make clear what their protocols are around ensuring other agencies' views with regard to the potential exclusion of a child or young person are taken into account.

Children and young people with additional support needs

The circumstances in which a child or young person with additional support needs can be excluded are the same as any other child or young person. However, any decision to exclude must take account of and be in line with the local authority's duties under the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 (as amended) [29] and the Equalities Act 2010 [30] . The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 (as amended) places specific duties on education authorities and other appropriate
agencies to:

  • make adequate and efficient provision for the Co-ordinated Support Plan; and
  • provide support and/or services whether on school premises or outwith. This may be taken forward by the Lead Professional.

Where a child or young person with an additional support need is at risk of exclusion, the education authority must take all reasonable steps to ensure that appropriate provision can be made to meet the child or young person's additional support needs during the period of exclusion. An education authority must continue to provide additional support as required, under the terms of the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 (as amended).

Children and young people with protected characteristics

The Equality Act 2010 does not prohibit schools from excluding children or young people with particular protected characteristics, but it does prohibit schools under section 85(2)(e) from excluding children and young people because of their protected characteristic or from discriminating during the exclusion process.

Children and young people with disabilities

In addition to the above, under section 85(6) Equality Act 2010, schools also have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to the exclusion process for disabled children and young people.

Schools and education authorities should ensure that they comply with the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 in relation to discriminatory behaviour in the context of exclusion from school. The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 Code of Practice [31] indicates that responsible bodies must not discriminate against a learner with a disability by excluding him or her for a reason related to the learner's disability.

Looked After Children

Understanding the specific needs of Looked After Children is crucial in order to ensure that any exclusion of a looked after child or young person is managed appropriately. School life can be a protective factor in the lives of Looked After Children and good relationships both within the educational establishment and beyond, are fundamental to ensuring that all appropriate steps are taken when considering and managing exclusion. It is likely that an exclusion from school will have a significant impact upon the life chances of a looked after child, if not mitigated for.

In the short term, exclusion could lead to the need to move placement, with all the disruption to existing relationships that this causes if appropriate care and supervision cannot be provided while the child or young person is excluded. In the longer term, ongoing instability in a child's life is very likely to lead to life-long challenges and ongoing disadvantage.

Children and young people may move between different types of placement while being looked after. This might include being looked after at home where the child or young person is subject to a compulsory supervision order while continuing to live in their usual place of residence; or being looked after away from home, which could include foster care, residential care or kinship care. Local authorities have certain responsibilities to children or young people who are looked after by them in terms of the definition in section 17 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (as amended) [32] . In cases where looked after children are placed outwith their local authority, in a care placement and school, the Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009 makes the responsible authority the authority that is looking after, or last looked after, the child or young person. While the responsibility for delivering service or support will likely be transferred to the host authority, the responsibility for securing and promoting the individual's wellbeing remains with the placing home authority, and so facilitating continuity of support and cooperative planning will be necessary.

In all cases prior to exclusion, the Designated Manager for Looked After Children within the school, should involve the child or young person's lead professional, as well as the child's parent with a view to considering the implications and potential impact on wellbeing that exclusion can have. The Education (Additional Support for Learning Act) (Scotland) Act 2004 (as amended) [33] , states that all Looked After Children and Young People will be deemed to have additional support needs, unless assessed otherwise, and appropriate consideration should be given to how to support these needs during any period of exclusion.

Corporate Parenting in Part 9 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 and the corresponding guidance sets out the statutory duties and responsibilities of all corporate parents to safeguard the rights and promote the wellbeing of looked after children. All employees of the local authority should be made aware of their responsibilities with regard to corporate parenting. This includes the requirement to collaborate with other corporate parents, including other local authority departments, to meet the needs of looked after children. Good communication between corporate parents, alongside the meaningful involvement of children and their families, will support meeting the needs of individual children when considering and managing exclusions.

Children who are adopted

Each year a significant number of children in Scotland who cease to be looked after are adopted [34] . The needs of these children remain the same as they were while looked after. Many of these children continue to struggle with some aspects of school life. They often have complex needs [35] that can lead to challenging behaviours and the risk of exclusion. These difficulties in school and especially exclusions can overwhelm what can sometimes be fragile home and family lives.

This guidance on preventing exclusions is especially relevant to many adopted children, for example, schools facilitating parental engagement, providing early intervention, assessment, and understanding behaviour as communication. Without these kinds of support, and awareness of their needs, there is a risk that exclusion will lead to a worsening in a child's behaviour in school and at home.

Child protection register/concerns

Child protection concerns may arise due to a number of differing reasons: from wellbeing concerns about potential abuse or neglect; to behaviours by the child or young person themselves which may put them at risk. It is essential that staff in all educational establishments know which senior staff are aware of who is or has been on the child protection register or for whom there are concerns.

All education authorities are responsible for maintaining a central register of all children and young people - including unborn children - who are on the Child Protection Register. In cases where the exclusion of a child or young person who is on the child protection register, or for whom there are current or previous child protection concerns, is being considered, the member of staff with responsibility for child protection within the school should be informed. In addition, where the decision to exclude is being considered, social work services should be involved in the decision. It is essential that this is done immediately prior to the child or young person being sent home in order to ensure their health and wellbeing, and social work services should be engaged throughout the period of exclusion from school and in line with local protocols. In all cases where a decision to exclude is being taken schools should be prepared to undertake a risk assessment to ensure that the child or young person will not be placed at further risk whilst excluded from school, and that appropriate provision should be available without undue delay.

Children and young people who are living in areas of socioeconomic deprivation

Whilst exclusion figures continue to fall, children and young people living in areas of socioeconomic deprivation are still over represented in the numbers of children and young people who are excluded from school. Rates of exclusion per 1,000 pupils are more than six times greater for pupils living in the 20% of areas associated with most deprivation, compared with pupils living in the 20% associated with least deprivation with the least deprivation, as defined by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation. Children and young people who are living in these areas are more likely to have experienced a wide range of adverse living circumstances which impact on their wellbeing. Schools need to take account of how a range of factors may be impacting on children and young people's behaviour and be aware that exclusion can be an additional stress factor for children and young people and their families who are experiencing such adverse life circumstances.

Schools need to also take into account that an exclusion may also have an immediate impact on the wellbeing of children and young people from such backgrounds. This might include missing out on free school meals and being prevented from accessing the security and continuity of the school environment.

Children and young people who are excluded on multiple occasions

Where multiple exclusions of a child or young person have taken place it should highlight to the school that the support provision being used/in place is not working. In these instances schools should seek additional support in line with their authorities' staged intervention policy. The education authority should monitor and track learners who are excluded on multiple occasions and clear guidance should be given to schools that where a child or young person is excluded on multiple occasions a different intervention is required.

Children and young people living in school hostels or lodgings

In education authorities, where children and young people are living in hostels or lodgings as part of their education, the local authority should have procedures in place to take this into account when considering an exclusion.

There are specific issues which will need to be considered if exclusion of a child or young person living in school hostels or lodgings is being considered. It is essential, in such circumstances, that appropriate discussions take place with hostel wardens or landladies and the parents of the child or young person.

In certain exceptional circumstances it may be appropriate for a child or young person to be excluded from school due to behaviour within the setting of their school hostel or lodgings. This would have to be a last resort and where the behaviour that has taken place could reasonably be described as giving rise to a situation where allowing the child or young person to continue their attendance at school would be likely to be seriously detrimental to order and discipline in the school or educational wellbeing of other children or young people there.

In such cases the Head Teacher will be required to work closely with the local residence officer. Invariably it will be the staff of the residence who will first alert the Head Teacher and Area Manager to any issues of this kind to enable discussions around support that can be provided, and any alternative strategies or interventions that can be used to support the child or young person.


Email: Douglas Forrester

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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