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School Exclusion - 2020 update

Our Specialist Education Lawyers receive calls on a regular basis from parents following a decision by a school to permanently exclude their child.

Our expert education solicitors appreciate the concerns that parents have regarding the effect that the decision to exclude will have on their child’s education, prospects of attending university and potential future career. In this blog we discuss the current data from the Office for National Statistics, provide details of what a permanent exclusion is and how our specialist lawyers are able to help you.

Office for National Statistics

The data from the Office for National Statistics for academic year 2018/19 reveals that the rate of permanent exclusion cases has slightly decreased since 2017/18; by only 11 cases. However, when the number of permanent exclusions set down in 2014/15 (5,795 permanent exclusions) is compared to 2018/19 (7,984 permanent exclusion), the figures reveal that there has been a significant increase in the rate of permanent exclusions in just 4 years.

The most common reason for permanent exclusions and fixed period exclusions during the last academic year is on the grounds of “persistent disruptive behaviour” which account for over a third of all permanent exclusions. The numbers also show an increase in permanent exclusions on the basis of drug and alcohol related incidents.

The statistics also reconfirm that the rate of permanent exclusions for SEN students is higher:

  • Exclusion rate for students without SEN = 0.06
  • Exclusion rate for SEN pupils with an EHCP = 0.15
  • Exclusion rate for SEN pupils without an EHCP = exclusion rate of 0.32

In addition to the statistics confirming that exclusion rates are higher for students with SEN, it also confirms that SEN students without an EHCP are at a higher risk of permanent exclusion.

If you believe the reason that your child has been excluded is connected to their disability, there may be scope to make a claim for disability discrimination.

How can I challenge the school’s decision to permanently exclude my child?

A permanent exclusion is a decision made by a Head Teacher to exclude a student who is not able to return to the school unless that decision is overturned.

There are numerous reasons why a student may be excluded including:

  • Bullying
  • Drug and alcohol related
  • Persistent disruptive behaviour
  • Physical assault against a pupil or adult
  • Racial abuse
  • Sexual misconduct
  • Theft
  • Verbal abuse or threatening behaviour against a pupil or adult

The head teacher should write to inform the parent/guardian the reasons why they have decided to exclude the pupil and also inform them what to do if they disagree with the decision made. The process of challenging a decision made by a maintained school or academy will include the following:

1.    Governing Board: review of the head teacher’s decision to permanently exclude the student in question.

2.    Independent Review Panel: a request for an independent review made by the parents following a decision by the governing board to uphold the head teacher’s decision.

Our education lawyers are frequently instructed to challenge permanent exclusion cases. One of most common grounds for exclusion, as confirmed by the Office for National Statistics, is for ‘persistent disruptive behaviour’ which often raises the following questions:

  • Did the school fairly investigate the case?
  • Did the school apply their behavioural policy correctly?
  • What steps did the school take to address the alleged behaviour?
  • Are there underlying causes for the disruptive behaviour? For example bullying, SEN or disabilities?
  • Was permanent exclusion the last resort?

There are a variety of issues that may not have been taken into consideration by the head teacher before setting down the ultimate sanction. Our specialist education team appreciate that each student is different and that they should not be treated as a tick box exercise.

How we can help you

If your child has been excluded and you wish to challenge the decision made by the school or governing body, our education solicitors can provide independent and impartial advice whilst also providing robust grounds of appeal. Our education solicitors can also provide representations at the board of governors meeting and/or the independent review panel.

If you did wish to challenge the decision to permanent exclude your child, please contact our specialist education legal team. Please contact us on 0333 202 7175 or contact us by email on

What our clients say about us
“Rhys Palmer, Cardiff office, Education case with the support of Saskia provided a thorough, highly organised and clear submission for our exclusion case. His clarity, insight and sound advice helped us tremendously. The successful and fair outcome has ensured that our child has secured the future he deserves. Thank you so much, highly recommend your service.”

Thanks to Rhys Palmer at HCB Solicitors, he has provided support and representation for me at the Independent Review Panel for the exclusion of my son. With Rhys's expertise and knowledge, we have successfully quashed the decision of the school and its governors, as well as explore the issue of disability discrimination. If any other parents are in a similar situation, I would whole heartedly recommend talking to Rhys and see if he can assist in similar cases.

We would like to thank Rhys Palmer for his help and advice regarding our granddaughter’s exclusion from school. We can certainly recommend him. We won the IRP appeal thanks to his written documentation.