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The Devon ladder of behavioural intervention


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The Devon Ladder is underpinned by current Statutory Guidance on Permanent Exclusions to which all schools, academies and Free Schools must adhere.

A decision to exclude a pupil permanently should only be taken:

In response to a serious breach or persistent breaches of the School’s Behaviour Policy


Where allowing the pupil to remain in school would seriously harm the education or welfare of the pupil or others in the school

[Exclusion from maintained schools, Academies & Pupil Referral Units in England, September 2017 p10]

DfE guidance also states that the underlying cause of persistent disruptive behaviour must be investigated and support provided such that permanent exclusion is only ever a ‘last resort’.

Early Intervention to address underlying causes of disruptive behaviour should include an assessment of whether appropriate provision is in place to support any Special Educational Needs or Disability that a pupil may have. The Headteacher should also consider the use of multi-agency assessment (DCC Right for Children) for a pupil who demonstrates persistent disruptive behaviour. Such assessment may pick up unidentified Special Educational Needs but the scope of the assessment could go further, for example, by seeking to identify mental health or family problems. [DfE, September 2017]

Part One of the Devon Ladder translates this advice into a clear practice for Devon Schools. It is designed to promote an evidence-based approach to early intervention and to signpost the resources now available within Devon to enable the inclusion of vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils.

The guidance on one-off serious breaches of Behaviour Policy (Part Three) is informed by the DfE and NPCC (formerly ACPO) guidance on drug related incidents and underpinned by Devon Children & Families Partnership policies. Referenced within the text, these are designed to guide Headteachers in pursuing inclusive alternatives to permanent exclusion when pupils make a serious, but one-off mistake.

Finally, Devon County Council supports transport for Managed Moves between schools, when arrangements are made in agreement with the local Behaviour & Attendance Panel and in consultation with the DCC Transport Team. The Managed Move Protocol can be downloaded to guide planning and strengthen collaboration between settings.

Part one: persistent misconduct

Step 1: School led

Current statutory guidance School actions
‘The headteacher should take account of any contributing factors’ [page10] For all pupils at risk, undertake a screening for underlying special needs. (at least: reading age & communication skills). See Communication Trust’s Progression Tools
‘Early Intervention to address underlying causes of disruptive behaviour should include an assessment of whether appropriate provision is in place to support any SEN or disability that a pupil may have’ [page10] When SEND is identified, implement SEN Graduated Response – Assess, Plan, Do, Review cycle. For complex needs or advice, consult the Local Offer and engage specialist support.
‘The headteacher should also consider the use of a multi agency assessment for a pupil who demonstrates persistent disruptive behaviour’ [page ] For ALL pupils at risk, explore environmental factors through consultation with parents, carer and pupil. Where unmet needs become evident, complete the Right for Children Early Help Assessment and engage service as appropriate. Single agency or through TAF.
‘Under the Equality Act 2010, schools must not discriminate. For disabled children, this includes a duty to make reasonable adjustments to policies and practices’ For all pupils who remain at risk, implement either Devon County Council’s Pastoral Support Programme or engage the School’s preferred tool for planning social and emotional learning (Thrive/Boxall). Engage parents and carers in the initial plan and its review. Consider escalation to Step 2 – Social, Emotional & Mental Health or Communication & Interaction Teams. – (See case law guidance on page 80

Step 2: SEMH/CIT Involvement

Current statutory guidance School actions
‘The headteacher should consider what extra support might be needed to identify and address the needs of pupils… in order to reduce their risk of exclusion’ [page11] Refer any pupil who has not responded to Step 1 intervention to our SEMH team for targeted support.

Step 3: Key State 1-3 (Intervention placement)

Current statutory guidance School actions
‘Where a school has concerns… it should, in partnership with others, including Devon LA, consider what Additional Support or Alternative Placement may be required [page11]. Refer for intervention placement in Alternative Provision, noting that referrals must be received by Wednesday for the following week’s panel. A completed passport must be emailed For pupils with EHCPs see Part Two. Upon successful referral of a pupil, attend admission meeting at the Alternative Provider so that the intervention can be planned with roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders confirmed. Attend 6 weekly review meetings and work with the Alternative Provider, Inclusion Service, Babcock to ensure successful reintegration into school following intervention.

Step 3: Key Stage 4

Current statutory guidance School actions
For a list of approved vocational qualifications, see the DfE Technical Awards Guidance.
In relation to Progress and Attainment 8. Note that the third element now contains ‘technical awards’ from the DfE approved list as well as GCSEs.

Part two: SEND and the ladder

When a headteacher wishes to access an intervention place for a pupil with an EHCP, an interim review must be convened and an Inclusion Officer invited. Only those children with a complete Early Help Assessment (Right4Children) may be considered for this approach.

If all steps have been followed, the setting will complete the Passport for an intervention placement, paperwork (PSP/Right4Children, Passport, EHCP and other necessary documents)must be emailed to the Inclusion Officer. The case will then be discussed at the next Access to Resource Panel Meeting, subject to spaces being available. If the provider can meet the needs, work will be undertaken alongside Babcock and the current setting to support a successful transition.

Part three: the one-off breach

Devon Local Authority endorses a restorative approach to behaviour. If a pupil has damaged a relationship or broken a rule, they should be given the opportunity to repair harm, to renew their commitment to school ethos and to learn from their mistake. Schools operating in this way could be described, in relation to the ‘Social Justice’ diagram below as ‘authoritative’.Diagram illustrating 'Social Justice'

The ‘authoritative’ approach also enables schools to comply with Statutory Guidance, that pupils should not be permanently excluded for a serious breach, or even breaches, if the incident can be managed such that other pupils are not harmed.

Schools are required within the Annex G (notice of permanent exclusion) paperwork to indicate what has prevented all of the following inclusive measures from either enabling the pupil to remain in school or from undertaking a managed move.

Inclusive measure Statutory guidance:
Provide opportunity for the pupil to repair harm, learn from the mistake and embark on a period of close monitoring with risk assessment in place. ‘Where practical, headteachers should give pupils an opportunity to present their case before taking the decision to exclude [page10]
Adhere to 2012 DfE Guidance on drugs misuse to avoid permanent exclusion for possession. ‘Exclusion should not be the automatic response to a drug incident and permanent exclusion should only be used in serious cases.’ [page6, DfE and (ACPO) NPCC Drugs Guidance]
Adhere to DfE Statutory Guidance 2017 Any decision of a school including exclusion must be made in line with the principles of administrative law, ie. that it is Lawful (with respect to the legislation relating directly to Exclusions and schools’ wider legal duties, including European Convention on Human Rights and the Equality Act 2010); rational, reasonable, fair and proportionate. [page8]
Consider mitigating circumstances eg. Bereavement, bullying or recently moved into Local Authority Care ‘Headteachers should take account of any contributing factors that are identified after an incident of poor behaviour has occurred. For example, when it comes to light that a pupil has suffered a bereavement, has mental health issues or has been subject to bullying.’ [page10]
If none of the above are sufficient to allow the pupil to remain within the school then placement elsewhere could be arranged ‘Maintained schools have the power to direct a pupil off site for education to improve behaviour. A pupil at any type of school can also transfer to another school as part of a ‘managed move’ where this occurs with the consent of the Parties involved, especially the parents and the Admissions Authority of the school. However, the threat of exclusion must never be used to influence parents to remove their child from school.’

Part four: Special cases

The ‘Final Straw’ Scenario

If a breach of behaviour policy justifies a permanent exclusion only because of previous violations, then it must be coded as ‘persistent misconduct’ to accurately reflect this context of the decision. The pupil will therefore have been supported through the steps outlined in Part One of the ladder.

Looked After Children (CiC) and pupils with a statutory plan, EHCP

‘Headteachers should as far as possible avoid permanently excluding any pupil with an EHCP or a Looked After Child.’[page7]

Pupils who are Looked After must not be permanently excluded without reference to the Devon Virtual School Headteacher. There is guidance which must be followed and will be highlighted to Governors, Independent Review Panels and Tribunals.

Pupils with an EHCP must not be permanently excluded without an emergency review first having been convened and acted upon.

Early Help

Statutory Guidance

School Exclusion Guidance

Behaviour and discipline in school. Advice for headteachers and school staff

Getting the simple things right: Charlie Taylor’s behaviour checklists

DfE and ACPO drug advice for schools Advice for local authorities, headteachers, school staff and governing bodies

Case Law

School exclusion of autistic boy unlawful, judge rules

Devon County Council