School exclusions system does not respect children’s participation rights

The Children’s Commissioner’s inquiry into school exclusions has shown that the system is in breach of children’s participation rights under Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The report says that there is currently no effective way for children’s views to be heard and taken account of. This was reflected in the experiences of many of the young people interviewed for the inquiry. One boy, when asked how his views had been taken into account said:

“They weren’t. The school didn’t listen to me – it just does what it likes.”

Research for the inquiry found that schools did not always consider ways of ensuring that students’ views are taken into account during the exclusions process. One teacher said:

“... we don’t consult the student, we talk to the student. ” (Key Stage 3 lead, School 3)

One child, who had been permanently excluded said:

“I went to the school meeting but felt they had made up their minds already. If the head teacher makes his mind up you have no second chance.”

Most respondents to the inquiry provided information on student involvement in reviewing behaviour and disciplinary approaches or policies and in the collation of evidence leading to an exclusion. However, this was mostly focused on information gathering rather than seeking the views of the children concerned. Some schools went even further, saying that “the views of the pupil and parent are not sought for a fixed-term exclusion” and that “I can’t think of a case where the views of parents/children have been included.”

The Children’s Commissioner is calling on the Government to amend statutory guidance to make it clear to schools that children and young people’s views must be sought as part of the exclusions process, and that they must be taken into account when coming to a decision. The Commissioner is also calling on the Government to ensure that children have a legal right to appeal against their own exclusion. This reflects the recommendation of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Find out more from the Children's Commissioner website

Participation Works is a partnership of…
British Youth CouncilChildren's Rights Alliance for EnglandKIDSNational Council for Voluntary Youth ServicesNational Youth Agency

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