Wales is often compared favourably to other countries because of its commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and lower levels of school exclusions.
Systematic analysis of policy documents reveals the dominance of a rights-based discourse in approaching the challenge of school exclusions, which are explained in terms of socio-economic circumstances rather than individual pathologies. However, the analysis also reveals silences and tensions within the discourse which suggest that a rights-based approach may not provide a useful framework for reducing school exclusions. There are challenges in balancing competing rights and in reconciling children as rights-holders with the rules and regimes of schools. There is also a significant mismatch between the causes of exclusions and the proposed remedies. The paper concludes by arguing that until these incongruities are addressed, it is hard to see how policy relating to school exclusion can be effective.