During 2022 Bolton Parent Carers were part of a small working group that developed the “Belonging in Bolton – Inclusive Practice Handbook.” The content of this handbook is all about ensuring that Bolton’s school have a range of resources, access to training and some clear expectations around inclusive practice.

In Bolton there is a very high number of pupils who are permanently excluded, or receive suspensions; and this includes a high number of pupils who have special educational needs/EHC Plan. This handbook is part of a wider approach to supporting schools to reduce the number of exclusions and suspensions and ensure more pupils are able to remain in their local mainstream school – with the right support.

The handbook covers a number of expectations around pupils with SEND when they may have behaviour that is challenging. During the development of the handbook Bolton Parent Carers were able to ensure that experiences of families were very much heard. We raised a number of issues that parents have shared with us. The handbook now covers everything that we would like it to in terms of ensuring that schools understand their duties around identification of SEN, putting SEN provision into place and adhering to the Equality Act.

Here is a very small snapshot of some of the content of the handbook, which we were very pleased with, as we have heard of numerous cases where schools sadly do not follow practice like this.

Pupils with SEND
Many students struggle to meet key school behaviour milestones for reasons connected to an identified SEND, and as much assistance as possible should be given to these students to do so. Some disabled students, such as those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autistic spectrum disorders or learning difficulties, are much more likely to find it challenging to understand and follow the rules than other pupils. Schools should consider whether a pupil’s SEND has contributed to the misbehaviour and if so, whether it is appropriate and lawful to sanction the pupil. In considering this, schools should refer to the Equality Act 2010 and schools guidance.

The school should also consider whether any reasonable adjustments need to be made to the sanction in response to any disability the pupil may have. It is also important for the schools to seek to try and understand the underlying causes of behaviour and whether additional support is needed. e.g. where the school policy would normally provide for a 2-day suspension, the policy is adjusted to provide an alternative punishment for a pupil where their behaviour arises from a disability. The punishment marks the seriousness of the incident, is understood by the pupil, and does not involve suspending them in these circumstances.

Currently the handbook is being rolled out to school settings, and with this, schools are also able to access a number of training options for staff. Whilst it is in this roll-out phase, we aren’t able to share the handbook with you. But we hope to be able to do so in the future.