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Are representations against a fixed exclusion handled as a formal complaint?

(15 Posts)
Snowballtorch Tue 15-Nov-16 09:16:14

Does anyone please have a good understanding of school / Governor policies who can advise?

Our son had a 1 day fixed exclusion (first time) 6 weeks into this school year and we made representations to the Chair of the Governors on the grounds that our son has SEN, which were not being met by the school at the time, in spite of our requests and support having being in place until the end of last school year (this was due to multiple staff changes and poor handover).

We felt the exclusion was not taken as a last resort and we could demonstrate the school had not done all they should have been doing to support DS and if they had the incident was unlikely to have happened.

We have been invited to make our representations in person to a panel of governors along with the head teacher.

The outcome we want is for a note on his file explaining that at the time of his exclusion his SEN were not being met and the incident is unlikely to have occurred if they had.

What we definitely do not want is to make a complaint against the head teacher.

Is it possible to make representations against the exclusion without it being handled as a complaint against the head teacher???

If not, can we ask the head teacher personally to put a note on the file and skip the formal procedure??

Thanks in advance

MaryManchego Tue 15-Nov-16 09:58:40

The meeting needs to happen because there are rules about how exclusions are handled but you are right to say during it that you feel he's effectively being punished for his additional needs that they have not been meeting effectively.
Schools are often very reluctant to agree that it was preventable and due to their inaction ime.

Is there a school focused plan /IEP /whatever your school calls it in place?

I'd suggest including in the meeting how they are going to avoid a recurrence of the situation.

I've been a governor on the panel (quite a while ago) and I have a child with some issues and an IEP type plan at school

Snowballtorch Tue 15-Nov-16 10:38:02

Thank you MaryManchego, yes he has an IEP, but we haven't reviewed it with the school since October 2015, as midway through Y3 (last school year) the Senco at the time said he was having a good year and we didn't need to review it (more fool us - this was our failing, we accepted it, being grateful that he was coping well). We assumed though that it would stay in place as it was.

He also attended a nurture group and a lunch club, with a 1:1 TA in the playground as most of his issues arise at playtime (SCD) and these continued to the end of term in July - these were part of his IEP, hence we thought the IEP still stood. When the SENCO left, no provision was put in place for September and it seems he was not handed over to the new SENCO (this leaves me worrying that they actually took him off the SEN register without our permission).

2 weeks into this school year, with our son increasingly anxious, talking to his teacher I found out that she had not been told about our son's diagnosis nor that an IEP was in place to be followed and also that our son no longer attended the nurture group or the lunch club.

We took this up with the head teacher, who said all the right things, met with us regularly to build new support plans and seemed to be working with us to fix it but 4 weeks later, with no provision in place still and no new IEP / IBP finalised, signed or in place, the exclusion occurred.

The exclusion was because our son had a meltdown in the playground, when 3 boys were teasing and goading him having snatched the ball away that he was playing with. No adults intervened and eventually he attacked one of them hissing and screaming and pulling them around and took a long time to calm down.

We have been naive as parents because having had a very good year last year, we allowed the school to lead us instead of us proactively ensuring meetings took place and forms were signed.

MaryManchego Tue 15-Nov-16 10:47:16

How horrible for him.

In that situation I'd definitely ask, and ensured its minuted, about why there hasn't been continuity for him and do they recognise that if he'd had the correct provision then this almost certainly wouldn't have happened.

Personally I'd say clearly that this was a predictable event that wouldn't have occurred if they had been adequate. And that in future you do not expect him to be punished for his sn.

How are they going to keep him and others safe at school?

Ask for a copy of the minutes. Follow up with an email to 'confirm what was discussed' in the meeting, ie we agreed senco will do x, ct will do y, etc.

MaryManchego Tue 15-Nov-16 10:48:59

Don't feel obliged to be 'nice ' you are being your child's advocate. It's personal for you, it's work and not an uncommon situation for the school staff.

MaryManchego Tue 15-Nov-16 10:50:34

Obvs I don't mean be rude or abrasive, but you may need to be firm and assertive in making it clear that you want to work WITH the school to prevent it happening again.

Snowballtorch Tue 15-Nov-16 11:08:12

No you don't sound rude or abrasive at all, though I definitely need the kick up the bum to be more assertive! I hate conflict and tend to try and avoid it, but I don't think we can avoid it in advocating for our son at the moment. We certainly won't be so relaxed in future, this has been a real lesson for us.

Thank you for your advice, it is hard to think clearly being overwhelmed by what has been going on. I have been worrying about our future relationship with the school and the impact of that on DS, as a result of challenging the exclusion, but we are so angry about how he has been let down, that to not challenge it feels like we are saying that it was ok.

Also, it seems that since we have put our letter in to the governors, all the meetings and progress we were making with the school towards putting the IEP / IBP back in place has stopped, though he is back in a lunch club, which was our first priority. Perhaps this is standard, but does leave us worried for our son in the meantime.

lougle Tue 15-Nov-16 12:33:06

They should treat it as a formal complaint, even if you have raised it informally. It's good practice. I'm not sure that I would agree (as a Chair of Governors) to writing that 'the incident is unlikely to have occurred if they had been meeting his needs'. It's not something they can say with any degree of certainty. What they can say is that the incident has highlighted that your DS needed support during that period which had not been provided, and that with those steps in place, it is hope that such an incident won't happen again.

As for the 'not expecting him to be punished for his SN'....I disagree slightly. We are raising children who one day will have to function in society as it is. They will not get an 'I have SN' card which exempts them from the laws of this country, the rules of their workplaces (if they are able to work), the rules of friendships, even.

If a child hurts another child, they need to be appropriately dealt with, which will include being removed to a place of safety (or having the other children removed to a place of safety if that is more practical). But they can't be made immune from the disciplinary measures of the school on the basis of their SN.

We need to equip our children with coping strategies, ways of dealing with frustration, etc., that don't involve hurting other children. It's not easy. DD1 frequently goes around the house kicking doors, walls, and so on in rage. DD2 frequently hits/pinches her sisters in her anger - but I can't excuse her behaviour because 'she can't help it' (as she would like me to). She needs to learn other ways of dealing with that rage and anger that don't involve hurting someone else.

I worry that we've gone too far in our defense of our children when I read thread after thread saying 'but s/he can't help it because s/he has special needs....' about relatively high functioning children who should be able to live with a degree of independence and work as adults - the only way our children have any hope of a life in the future is to make them as able to cope as we possibly can with the life they'll have to live.

That means that they'll have to cope when that arrogant sod pushes in the queue and not lump them one. It means that they'll have to cope when someone stands a bit too close in the lift. It means that they'll have to cope with that awful noise that the supermarket shoves on in the name of 'atmosphere' - it won't be easy, but they will be able to do it if they are given lots of opportunities to overcome their difficulties and cope. Not enjoy it. Not find it easy. Not do it without having to recover afterwards. Just to be able to do it.

OneInEight Tue 15-Nov-16 13:21:49

We were advised that unless the school was not following procedure there was no point appealing an exclusion on SEN grounds as we were unlikely to win and our energies would be better placed in working with the HT to ensure that appropriate support was put in place.

Lougle I can see your point that we need to equip our children with the skills to deal with conflict but in our experience exclusions are not an appropriate method to teach these. In our experience these simply increased anxiety, mental health problems and ultimately escalated the challenging behaviour. Only good they did was to provide evidence to support our application for a statement.

Snowballtorch Tue 15-Nov-16 13:30:13

lougle I don't disagree with much of what you say. We have raised our DS to know that all the rules apply to him as they apply to everyone else and that he will have to work harder in life to overcome his natural response to situations. However, he is still a child who is learning how to control his emotions when he is overwhelmed and he has come a long way.

He is not aware that we have challenged his exclusion, nor will he be, because we ensure that he knows that we will back up the school if he misbehaves. That doesn't mean to say that we will back them up when we feel they are wrong. He certainly won't know about it though, he is not emotionally mature enough to understand and we don't want him confused by the mixed message.

However, since the support that he previously had was put in place in Yr2, we did not have ANY incidents of the kind that got him excluded and it is not typical for him to be physical with other children. Had all the necessary support been in place and he had behaved in a way that warranted an exclusion, I would not be challenging it. I don't believe that SEN is a free pass to no consequences. We are doing all that we can to ensure he is best able to function as an adult when the time comes. However, the school does have an obligation to meet his needs as a result of his SEN and they have failed him in that.

We simply want to ensure that our DS is given the support he requires, because if he is not, everyone loses out. 6 weeks of no support had dire consequences and whilst we can't be certain the same would not happen with support in place, previous experience suggests it is rather unlikely.

The reason for my post was that I wanted to know if there is any way to address the failing of our DS, without detriment to the Head Teacher who we do not blame, but it appears that we can't. In which case, our DS comes first.

lougle Tue 15-Nov-16 13:38:48

I totally agree. I was raising the point in reference to Mary's point about not punishing for SNs.

With regards to your concern about harming the HT, I don't know that it will. As a Chair of Governors, I certainly wouldn't be looking to penalise my head in this situation (although I flipping hope I wouldn't be in it as it's a special school and she should know well what she's doing!), but rather to make sure that as Governors we are doing all that we should be and that we all understand what has gone wrong so it doesn't go wrong again.

This sounds more of a systems failing than an individual failing - the transition from Y2 to Y3 hasn't allowed your DS to keep his support. So as a Governor I'd want to know what the normal system is for communicating SN requirements, if the normal systems were used, if not why not, and if they were why weren't they good enough to prevent this?

Also, something to bear in mind, is that the Chair of Governors should have been aware of this exclusion - they have to be notified. So why weren't they curious before your complaint as to what has gone wrong here?

Snowballtorch Tue 15-Nov-16 13:58:34

Thanks lougle that is good to know, we are not looking to attribute blame.

I can't answer whether or not the Chair of Governors was curious before our request to make representations against the exclusion. We haven't met with him yet.

Our DS is now in Yr4 and as I mentioned further up thread, he had a very good Yr3 and I am concerned that the SENCO who left at the end of Yr3 may have removed him from the SEN register. We didn't sign him off it and I could be wrong. This is something we need to ask, but the reason it crossed my mind is that it would explain why the new SENCO did not pick up our son's case when she started.

Nothing is clear, we have a lot of questions to ask.

MaryManchego Tue 15-Nov-16 14:09:30

Snowball - very much on the same page about us reinforcing acceptable behaviour etc, we also direct more suitable ways to express dissatisfaction grin and appreciate that conformity is a necessity more or less. However some things are much more or less likely to happen if the right support is in place. And while SN isn't so much an excuse for poor behaviour, it does explain why he was unable to handle the conflict differently.

I'm not sure if I'm expressing myself very well now, mine isn't keen on sleep.

But I hope that the meeting goes well

Snowballtorch Tue 15-Nov-16 15:40:12

Thank you Mary, I hope so too! I hope you get to catch up on your sleep, tiredness makes everything so much harder (though you are expressing yourself just fine).

youarenotkiddingme Tue 15-Nov-16 22:00:07

I think you need to do what's right for your son without worrying about the effect on staff. The HT is in charge of the school - you don't have yo personally complain about them but as the head they will be expected to attend meetings and will be held ultimately responsible.

You can always say an outcome you are seeking is that this will improve the relationship and communications with school as the previous working relationship and success of your son managing school highlights that the effective relationship was a benefit. And ask that it's set that you'll meet x number of times a year (once a term?) to discuss and review and send email updates once a month to just catch up and keep in touch.

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