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Help... please. Exclusion related so time sensitive.

(12 Posts)
tinks269 Sat 12-Nov-16 23:15:17

This post could be very outing but honestly I don't care if I can get this horrid mess all sorted.

Our son has been with us for a little over three months. on Tuesday he was excluded for one and a half days. It was parents evening so my husband who had collected him from school stayed home trying to stop him crying while I went in to try and work out what on earth had happened that meant a school that had been talking to us almost daily about how to best attach to him (both myself and my husband work within attachment in education) had excluded him not for the remainder of the day but for an extra whole day as well.

I was told that when the senco had accidentally started to take a model he had made apart he became very upset and frustrated (understandably) and threw a piece of the model. This happened to hit a girl. He quickly calmed enough to help put the model back together again (well done son this is massive for you) and was allowed to remain with the class while my husband was called to come and collect him. The letter we were given then cited physical aggression towards a pupil as the reason for exclusion.

I talked to the head. Said that the reason given was unacceptable and she agreed that it wasn't right and would change it. She also saidthat she understood he was frustrated, agreed he had calmed very quickly but as he had left a mark she had no choice but to exclude him. She then carried on to say that this had allowed her to raise a red flag and request additional emergency funding for him.

Am I wrong for being mad at this school? In my mind the following is just the start of their errors
- as a child with an attachment trauma background exclusion should only be used as an absolute last resort
- they have to exhaust possibilities of managing his behavior first (they had not put many of the things in place we had said they needed to and they had agreed to)
- exclusions should be for the shortest time. He could have returned to school the following day
- excluding to prove a point to a department in order to get more money is horrendous
- saying she had to exclude as a mark was left would mean any child that accidentally left a mark on another child would also have to be excluded

I could go on.

Am I being unreasonable or have the school acted completely innapropriately? And does anyone have any suggestions as to who could help and what I can do next? I have already written to the head of governors.


tldr Sun 13-Nov-16 02:13:47

I don't think you're being unreasonable at all and I think the school has badly let your son down.

I think I would be not sending him back there until they could demonstrate that the measures they had said they would put in place are actually in place, though I appreciate that may not be straightforward.

But everything you say about the HT screams 'hasn't understood' so depending on your other options, I might be looking at permanently moving him tbh.

Presumably adoption order is not yet granted? In that case I think there should be a virtual head with responsibility for overseeing DS's education. DS's SW should be able to get in touch with them and they should work with the school (I think).

There are other more knowledgable posters though, so see what they suggest.

Meantime flowers - it's obviously tough.

Poppystellar Sun 13-Nov-16 02:20:22

Hi tinks I'm really sorry you're going through this it sounds incredibly stressful.

I'm not an expert on exclusions by any means (it might be worth posting in education as well?) but do have some experience in this area.

i don't think you're being unreasonable at all but I can also see, to some extent, the school's point of view. I think your best way forward at this point is to look at ways at working with the school to get the support you want for your son at school. The fixed term exclusion (the one and a half day) does seem a disproportionate and totally inappropriate response for a child who is relatively newly placed with adoptive family. However, as it is a fixed term exclusion and it has now passed there isn't much you can do about it. You can obviously complain to the governors and would be perfectly within your rights to do that but my advice would be don't waste your time and energy because what is it actually going to achieve? You may get an apology or acknowledgment from the school that they acted over zealously (to put it mildly) in issuing the exclusion but this won't get your son the support he needs. I worry you could end up wasting a lot of time and energy over the exclusion that could be better spent getting the school to get some decent support strategies in place. Use your energy to help school work out what they actually need to do to help your son.

Practical suggestions for school:
Training in attachment issues for all staff
Google 'Herts working with looked after pupils' and you should get a link to a useful doc from Herts LA giving some practical suggestions for school staff on supporting challenging behaviour of LAC pupils using the Dan Hughes PACE model
Look up BAAF pupil premium case studies and share with school. These have some good real life examples of how schools have used PP to support adopted children.

However, having said all this there are some red flags for me from the school. The bit about releasing extra funding seems weird. I have never heard of this 'emergency' funding. The school is entitled to PP for your son (currently £1900 per year) but this is only released to schools based on the January census numbers as far as I understand so your school may not have it yet. However, if they know he's adopted they know this money will be coming so I don't really understand what the extra funding is they're talking about. Do check with school they know to apply for pupil premium though (it sounds obvious but some schools don't know). As far I am aware there is no additional funding school can tap in to for pupils who've had a fixed term exclusion - otherwise all schools would be doing this surely?

Re using exclusion as a punishment. I wonder if the school wanted to send your son home to 'cool off' but had to officially record it as a fixed term exclusion as schools are not legally allowed to send pupils home to 'cool off'? Possibly. Regardless, school need to know that this type of punishment (along with time out and other 'shame' punishments) are particularly damaging for LAC pupils. Obviously they need to be punished if they do something wrong but school needs to look into 'time in' punishments rather than 'time out' ones which will just perpetuate feelings of inadequacy in traumatised children.

School needs to work with you on supporting your son to be successful at school. Don't be afraid (I'm sure you aren't) about speaking to SENCO, class teacher, head teacher etc as and when you need to. They will get extra funding via PP to support your son and don't be afraid to challenge them about how they are spending it.

To go back to exclusions. The guidance around issuing permanent exclusions (PEX) state that it must be avoided if at all possible for looked after pupils. This is because the DfE recognises the extra vulnerability these pupils have. Schools are expected to do absolutely everything they can to support LAC pupils so that they don't get to the point of PEX. I would argue that the same principle should apply to fixed term exclusions. Our children are very vulnerable. Being 'sent away' from somewhere (which is what the exclusion is doing) is likely to trigger intense emotions for them.

Re the excuse about needing to exclude because of the mark in the other child, I think this is a bit of a red herring on the part of the school. Yes, schools do have a duty (written in the exclusions guidance from the DfE) to ensure the safety and well being of the rest of the pupils, and not being able to ensure this is a reason oft used in exclusion cases. However, context is everything. In this case the mark was accidental, not premeditated or planned in anyway, and not, as far as we know, part of any persistent concerted pattern of misbehaviour towards this one child. In this context, I would say the mark is irrelevant and has been used by the school as an entirely spurious reason to justify their over zealous and inappropriate exclusion.

My advice would be to accept this fixed term exclusion. It's been and gone. But talk to the school about how it is an inappropriate first line punishment for your son going forward, you are keen to work with them on finding ways to use PP to support him, plus any other support he needs, and you think an alternative to exclusion might be XYZ (whatever you think would be appropriate, possibly internal exclusion where he goes to be with a member of staff one on one, or if he's really little, 'time in' with a specific member of staff)

The other thing is that if he's only been with you 3 months he may not be ready for school yet. I don't know how old he is but if one or both of you are still on adoption leave could you take him out of school, defer his start or something and focus on securing attachment without the distraction of school?

Apologies for the diatribe. Hopefully something in all my ramblings might help you.

tinks269 Sun 13-Nov-16 18:19:00

Thank you both for your replies. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't being unreasonable before going for it.

An exclusion can be withdrawn by the head if it has not been reviewed by governors. His has not. The head refuses.

Both my husband and myself work in education in a setting where we deal with attachment trauma every day. We have spent hours talking and explaining our son's needs. We have given clear instructions in numerous emails and have secured free attachment training for a number of their staff.
It is because of everything we have done I feel so cheated and let down.

poppystellar our son is older and wants to be in school. We would not dream of sending him if we didn't think it was what he wanted. Our attachment is wonderful. All sws are amazed at how well he is doing at home and how settled he already is. Our only problem is the head who despite talking the talk apparently can not walk the walk.

Thanks again for your replies.

Hels20 Sun 13-Nov-16 18:39:08

I am not in education so don't know the whys or wherefors. Except, what I do know is that when my 5.5yr old DS recently did something that hit someone accidentally, the teacher was quick to point out he was punished - not for the object "hitting" x but for refusing to say "sorry". He was sent to the quiet corner. She said it was obviously an accident and if he had said sorry, then nothing more would be said.

I don't see a huge difference with what happened in your situation. It accidentally hit someone. He didn't deliberately hit someone. I am horrified that this could result in an exclusion. Horrified. Regardless of whether this was an adopted child, SEN or child with no apparent difficulties.

Poor you, having to deal with this. Your poor child.

conserveisposhforjam Sun 13-Nov-16 19:42:24

Yeah what pp said. All of them sadflowers

What do you intend to do next? You work within this area and have considerable experience and you say you have contacted the governors. I think that's good for now. Are your concerns with the HT in writing? How much do you think is inexperience and how much is attitudinal? Do you think she can be brought to a position of understanding?

This feels like a longer term project tbh. We can help you work through it.

More flowers and cake

Poppystellar Sun 13-Nov-16 20:00:55

You must be livid. I was working from the assumption that the school (the HT) didn't know how best to support your child but with guidance would be keen to do so. It sounds like you have done a shed load already to help them understand and they are ignoring it. I have no advice I'm sorry but I'm so angry for you and your son.

You are doing the right thing in not letting this lie. I wish you all the luck in the world in getting this sorted. flowers

monkeytoad35 Sun 13-Nov-16 20:02:34

This HT sounds extremely unreasonable given the efforts you have taken to ensure your son is settled and happy in school. I'm a primary school teacher, and I know of in the past, a parent was threatening the school with contacting Ofsted about something they were unhappy about. Is this something you could do? I think you are well within your rights to if this HT is so ridiculously unsupportive ! flowers

tinks269 Sun 13-Nov-16 20:14:48

Thank you for comments/ support it really does mean such a lot to me. In the emotional state I am in it brought tears to my eyes so thank you.

We will be taking this as far as we can. If that means Ofsted then so be it. We can't move our son as he has started to make friends and a move would be another trauma for him so although we would love to just get him away, we can't.

We will just have to see what tomorrow brings. I'm dreading it but so cross on my son's behalf that this will not be swept under the carpet.

bostonkremekrazy Sun 13-Nov-16 22:10:07


no real answers here but just a few thoughts....

- its possible the school have used the exclusion as an explanation for the other parent for the mark on their child - ie sorry your child has been marked, but the other child has been excluded for the day.
- you say you are talking to the school almost daily - that is a lot! with the best will in the world the school may just be finding your child too much for them to handle. Does your child have a statement of special needs? does he have any additional hours or a 1-1 given? If the school are needing daily conversations this indications a high level of needs in the classroom.
- you say you have spent hours talking, numerous emails etc - this sounds overwhelming for a regular state school - sorry! Is it a regular school or a specialist school?
- you say 'our attachment is wonderful'.....please please do not fool yourself into believing this - 3 months in your attachment with your child is barely scratching the surface, the sw's will be saying they cannot believe how well he has settled because a. that is what you want to hear, and b. their knowledge of attachment will be limited at best c. they want his placement to work smile

Maybe the school needed some breathing space, this may not be what you wanted to hear i know - I have 3 adopted children all with complex needs and school can be a very tricky place for us adopters .I hope you find the help you need here.

tinks269 Sun 13-Nov-16 23:01:03

- yes every possibility this is their reason. Even more so as it is the daughter of a governor. However that does not make it right.
- no he does not have a statement. There were no behaviour issues in his last school. At all. He does need 1:1 at the moment in order to settle but we are sure this won't be forever. He has managed in a mainstream school for years so it is possible. Just down to him feeling safe and secure.
- it's a mainstream school and it is them asking for us rather than the other way round.
- as I have said attachment is mine and my husbands bread and butter so to speak. He is a therapist. When I say wonderful I don't mean perfect. I mean we are attached. Not securely, that will take years if we are lucky. But we know he feels safe with us, is opening up to us and seeks reassurance from us. We are well aware not to believe everything sws tell us, we have had some classics which prove this.

I am sure the school do need space and we are more than happy to have the time after school back. It has been emotionally draining going from my job straight into an hour of attachment. We did not expect the transition to a new school to be smooth. We expected problems. But to have our son excluded for being frustrated weeks in was never on our radar. I posted to see if I was overreacting to what had happened.

slkk Wed 16-Nov-16 22:05:57

The additional funding is probably high needs funding which can be allocated for specific children for specific period of time of crisis I believe.

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