Keith Towler frustrated at illegal school exclusions

The Welsh children's commissioner says school children are still be excluded without following proper procedures

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Wales' children's commissioner says he is frustrated at the slow progress being made in tackling illegal exclusions from schools.

Schools cannot ask parents to keep their children away from school without giving formal exclusion notification.

And Keith Towler feels the Welsh government should have done more than the research it commissioned in 2011.

The Welsh government said more research was being carried out and the results were expected in the summer term.

Research carried out two years ago unearthed anecdotal evidence that the practice of excluding illegally was happening in some schools across Wales.

"I'm frustrated about slow progress on this area and I think schools are too; I think teachers are too," Mr Towler told BBC Wales.

"I think there are a lot of teachers, head teachers and governing bodies who would feel this level of frustration.

Start Quote

Keith Towler

I think there are a lot of teachers, head teachers and governing bodies who would feel this level of frustration”

End Quote Keith Towler Children's Commissioner

"And the issues are quite straightforward, so if you have a child with slightly challenging behaviour or additional learning needs in school, those support needs need to be met."

"In my investigation advice service, where I see that a child is being - what I would call 'illegally' excluded from school - we hear more and more issues about health and safety as one of the issues that keeps those kids at home, or maybe the school is looking to employ a support assistant.

"But sometimes those days can run into weeks and can run into months before that support is in place. That frustrates teachers as much as it does pupils and families."

Snap Cymru is a charity dealing with children who have been excluded from schools.

They have concerns that the support services offered by councils may be cut as local authorities feel the financial pinch.

Caroline Rawson, assistant director of Snap Cymru had a son with additional learning needs and was asked to take him out of his school during an inspection.

'Really worried'

She is worried about what might happen if funding is cut from services in future.

"We're really worried that, in this time of austerity, the local authorities may cut posts in the services which support children with additional learning needs," she said.

"For example the educational welfare service; child psychology service and other support services.

"And that means that the teachers who are working with children with additional needs and disabilities will not have the support that they need to enable them to keep these people learning and reaching their full potential."

A Welsh government spokesperson said it was "imperative" that schools and local authorities follow the correct procedures for exclusions.

"The fact that unlawful exclusions are not recorded means that it can be extremely difficult to identify instances of this practice," they said.

"In order to explore the issue further we commissioned a research project on the experience of unlawful exclusions in Wales in June 2011. This was undertaken as a partnership project with SNAP Cymru and Barnardo's Cymru.

"The findings of the report were taken into consideration in the recent revision of the Welsh Government exclusions guidance.

"Last year we commissioned Edinburgh University to examine the process of exclusions from school and the delivery, planning and commissioning of education provision outside the school setting.

"We expect the findings and recommendations of this research to be published in the summer term.

"This important piece of research will play a key role in the development of policy aimed at improving both the consistency and fairness of the exclusion process, as well as the quality and consistency of alternative provision in Wales."

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