Compromise over excluded pupils

``Confrontational'' procedures used to exclude children from school should be replaced by a new approach aimed at compromise rather than conflict, local authorities have told ministers.

The present system, in which parents go through a formal appeals process if they disagree with a school's decision to exclude, serves neither children nor staff well, according to the Local Government Association. It proposes an alternative, in which all sides would hold a joint "case conference" when a headteacher was considering excluding a child. This, it says, would prevent confrontations such as at Manton Junior School, in Nottinghamshire, last year when teachers went on strike after governors overturned the head's decision to exclude 10-year-old Matthew Wilson.

Local education authorities, who put their proposal to the schools minister Estelle Morris on Tuesday, first raised the suggestion a year ago with Gillian Shephard, then Secretary of State for Education. Mrs Shephard said the switch might be possible without legislation. At present, a head's decision to exclude a pupil is considered by the governing body, which usually backs the move, and by the LEA, which can reinstate the child. Parents and governing bodies have the right to appeal against an LEA's decision.

Governors support their headteachers in 96 per cent of cases, and parental appeals succeed in only 1 per cent, the Local Government Association's chairman Graham Lane said. Under his association's proposal, which would come into force wherever parents objected to an exclusion, LEA officials would mediate between parents and school. If parents were still dissatisfied, governors and LEA representatives would form a panel to review the case, taking evidence from parents, the head and other relevant people.

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