Isobel’s 15-year-old son was not allowed to return to school. Here, the mum-of-three describes her shock at his expulsion.
“We were called into a meeting at my son’s school three days before the September term started. My son Harry was instructed to come in full school uniform. I feel furious now thinking of him, a bunch of nerves, polishing his school shoes in preparation for a meeting with the head teacher.
“But he sat outside in the corridor while his future was decided without him even being allowed to have a say. He was about to go into Year 11, his GCSE year, and the head told us that Harry would not be allowed back into school because of ‘persistent bad behaviour’.
“It was a total, utter shock. I was upset, angry, tearful. I have a strong suspicion that if he’d got an A* in his early Religious Studies GCSE instead of a B, he would have been staying.
“The timing could not have been worse - our youngest son Ollie was due to start at the exact same school with all his friends from the feeder primary school in two days.”
“The head told me and my husband Bill that we could go through the exclusion procedure with the school governors, which could take months and seemed hopeless, or he could have a ‘managed move’ to a neighbouring school. I called the head an abusive, nasty bully to his face.
“Managed moves are supposed to offer a fresh chance to children at a new school with the parents and child agreeing it’s the right course of action. But I’ve since discovered they’re how schools unofficially exclude pupils, by threatening a managed move or permanent exclusion. That’s not a real choice, especially when your child is due to take exams in nine months.
“A group of kids from the school, including Harry, had been spotted by a teacher in a local park smoking dope after school in the summer term. Some of them were in school uniform, some not. Four of them were identified the following day at school after interrogations of pretty much the whole year group.
“The caught boys were each given totally different punishments for the same crime - one was excluded for a week, two of them for two weeks and Harry for three weeks. At no point did the school say Harry could face permanent exclusion.
“He had to attend a local exclusion unit for the last weeks of term, because kids aren’t allowed more than a week at home. He’d come home from the education unit smiling and animated; I’d got used to seeing him after school with his shoulders down and a face of fury.
“Harry had never got on with the school’s strict regime, ridiculous things like being put on ‘sock report’ when he had to show his head of year that he was wearing matching black socks.
“His older brother Jack had done well at the school, so we’d always thought Harry would be able to knuckle down and tolerate the rules he thought were pointless. But he kept on having run-ins with the teachers and, I think, that one shared spliff was the excuse they needed to get rid of him.
“Thankfully, he thrived at his new school. The teachers were kinder, interested in him, not just whether his tie was straight, so he worked harder. He got merits for his homework for the first time ever.
“He had to start French from scratch in his GCSE year, so we paid for a tutor because he was at such a disadvantage. A ‘managed move’ means the school should have sent on all Harry’s evaluations and course work to the next school. They didn’t send a thing and wiped their hands of him, so he had to redo all his coursework.
“We were ecstatic when his results came in - 6 As*, 2 As and a B in French. Being expelled could have destroyed his chances of exam success and had a real impact on his life, but he showed them all.
“He’s just started at a new school with a sixth form and he’s flourishing, studying his favourite subjects at A levels.
“Our youngest son is still at the same school. We attend parents’ evenings but I will never speak to anyone in senior management ever again.
“Our friends were as shocked as us and they’ve been very supportive, especially as the school does have such a local reputation for zero tolerance. I was never ashamed. I am still furious. One work colleague said ‘well, what did you expect?’. I expected the school to be a lot less high-handed. He wasn’t abusive or threatening, he wasn’t a trouble maker, he wasn’t flaunting their authority on the school grounds. He just smoked a spliff with a group of other teenagers on a summer evening.”
Names have been changed.