DFE Consultation on Revised Behaviour in Schools’ Guidance and Suspension and Permanent Exclusion Guidance – February 2022
The recent publication of the Education White Paper and Green Paper on Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and Alternative Provision (AP) systems provided an insight into the thinking and plans of policy makers in education.
Another recently published document which suggests how policy and practice in schools is likely to develop (that was especially relevant to professionals with an interest in pastoral care or working in pastoral roles) was the consultation document ‘Revised behaviour in schools’ guidance and suspension and permanent exclusions guidance.
This document can be found at GOV.UK. and the consultation is based on two draft policy documents Behaviour in schools Guidance (2022) and Suspension and Permanent Exclusion Guidance (2022).
This is in response to a promise following the publication of the Timpson Review of School Exclusions (2019) that the UK Government was committed to working with sector experts to publish clearer, more consistent guidance.
The aim of this guidance is to support schools to:
· create positive behaviour cultures
· ensure suspensions and permanent exclusions are conducted in a lawful, reasonable and procedurally fair way
This promise seems to have been lost or delayed by the Government’s focus on Brexit and then the global pandemic.
NAPCE responded to the consultation which closed on the 31st March 2022.
The proposed changes in the guidance are likely to have a significant impact on policy and practice for managing behaviour in schools and in the daily work of staff in pastoral roles.
There had been speculation before the publication of the Timpson Review that it would restrict the powers of school leaders to implement suspensions and exclusions as a strategy to achieve good behaviour and a positive learning environment for learners.
The Timpson Review made 30 recommendations for changes but did recognise that school leaders use exclusions as a sanction as a ‘last resort’.
It also recommended that schools should be made more responsible for pupils that are excluded and more accountable for the educational outcomes that theses pupils achieve.
There was no guidance provided by the report or by the DFE on how this would be achieved in practice, and this might help to explain why there has been a delay in discussing new policy and practice.
The Timpson Revew suggested that more funding should be provided for alternative provision as an alternative to exclusion.
It raised concerns that pupils who were given repeated fixed term exclusions were missing out on education and that their experience was like a ‘revolving door’.
The Report asked for further consultation on reducing the 45-day limit for fixed term exclusions in an academic year and raised concerns about what was described as the rare practice of ‘off rolling’ to solve school behaviour issues.
There were also calls for the DFE to strengthen guidance about in-school units for managing behaviour, so they were always used constructively.
The Timpson Review called for more training on behaviour management so that schools could embed and maintain positive behaviour cultures.
The introduction to the consultation document demonstrates a focus on ensuring that schools make good behaviour a priority.
“Good behaviour in schools is essential to ensure that all pupils can benefit from the opportunities provided by education”.
“Schools should be calm, orderly and safe environments that support their pupils to succeed”.
This suggests that schools will come under increased scrutiny for their policies and practice to provide a positive learning environment and be accountable for how they manage behaviour.
It is also clear from the introduction to the consultation document that school leaders will be under increased scrutiny for how they use suspension and exclusions as strategies as part of the behaviour policy.
“It is important that headteachers have the knowledge and confidence to suspend or exclude pupils where it is warranted”.
“It is equally important that the obligations on schools are clear and well understood to ensure that any suspension or permanent exclusion is lawful, reasonable and fair”.
This could leave school leaders and staff in pastoral roles in the position where they are criticised if suspension or exclusion is not used as a sanction but also aware that they must carefully justify any decision and ensure that all appropriate procedures are followed.
The different sections of the consultation document provide clues about what is likely to be important for policy makers and what is seen as being good practice in behaviour management in schools.
The role of governing bodies in reviewing and monitoring suspensions and exclusions is highlighted.
There is a promise of increased guidance for governing bodies on how to analyse data on behaviour, suspensions and exclusions to be able to identify any variations in practice.
There is an increased expectation that headteachers will involve other professionals such as social workers in the exclusion decision making process.
A call for further consultation on remote meetings for exclusions suggest that theses are seen as being an option and part of the practice in schools after the pandemic.
There is a discussion about managed moves that suggests a more structured approach to their use as part of behaviour management.
Schools are encouraged to have a clear vision of what expected behaviour looks like and how they will create a whole school environment in which pupils are more likely to behave well.
It is emphasised that the school behaviour policy should be clearly communicated to ensure that the role and responsibilities for staff, pupils and parents is clear, to maintain good behaviour standards.
There is a focus on SEN and SEND pupils that statistics show are at more risk of suspension or exclusion.
Schools are encouraged to provide more support for vulnerable groups of pupils to meet behavioural standards and reminded about their responsibilities and duties under the Children and families Act 2014 and the Equality Act 2010.
The use of rewards and positive recognition is encouraged to reinforce expectations and routines of the school behaviour culture.
This has implications for staff in pastoral roles and suggests that pastoral leaders will need to plan a proactive approach to meeting the needs of different groups of learners and plan actions that develop and sustain a positive culture for learning and behaviour.
The document calls on schools to respond, “robustly to incidents of misbehaviour”, to deter further incidents and restore order and protect pupils from further disruption to their learning.
Sanctions should be applied in a fair and consistent manner and special consideration should be given when sanctions are implemented for SEND pupils.
The document discusses the use of removal rooms and how they should be used and highlights that there is a difference between a removal room and a separation space.
This includes comments that special consideration should be given to the removal of SEND or vulnerable pupils.
A small section signals how schools should support pupils following behavioural incidents and the pastoral support that may be required.
There is an emphasis on the importance of early intervention strategies to prevent misbehaviour, to reduce suspension and exclusion numbers and help pupils to develop appropriate skills and attitudes.
This will have implications for staff in pastoral roles for the use of their time and for the priorities for their daily work with pupils.
There is a discussion about how schools should respond to incidents of sexual violence and harassment to prevent it “leading to a culture of unacceptable and an unsafe environment for children in line with current safeguarding guidance”.
It is recognised that guidance on how to respond to online incidents and other incidents that take place away from the school site would be useful.
It recognises the headteacher’s autonomy in setting a policy on mobile phones but outlines that any policy should consider the needs for phones to be used in some circumstances such as medical grounds or to enable “children with SEND to access the curriculum”.
Staff in pastoral roles are very skilled and have considerable experience in managing behaviour in schools.
They have access to guidance in a wide range of books and publications based on research and experience that is shared.
The comments in the consultation document explore areas that pastoral staff are aware of and have daily experience of them in their schools.
What is interesting is that the issues that are examined indicate what the priorities are for policy makers and what needs to be considered by pastoral leaders in reviewing their behaviour policies and practice.
The DFE is currently analysing the feedback to the consultation and will publish the outcomes soon.
NAPCE will continue to contribute to discussions about policy and practice in pastoral care in education and welcomes any views or comments from Members.
SEND review: right support, right place, right time – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Opportunity for all: strong schools with great teachers for your child – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Revised behaviour in schools guidance and suspension and permanent exclusions guidance – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)