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School Exclusion Appeals Solicitors in London
In line with the Education Act 2002, a Head Teacher of a private or state run school is within his or her rights to exclude a pupil on the grounds of their behaviour contradicting the general standard of conduct students are expected to display.
The Department for Education states that alternatives should always be considered before a decision is made to exclude a child from school. A set exclusion procedure must also be followed. If it isn’t then parents are able to make an appeal based on breach of procedure.
What is the Procedure for Appealing a School Exclusion in London?
Depending on the London Local Authority governing the state school, the procedure will vary. If you need to challenge a school exclusion from a private or independent London school then there will be a wholly different process.
In all cases, a school exclusion letter will be issued. This will document the reasons for the exclusion, together with the steps that must be followed in order to make an appeal.
If you are dealing with a temporary, fixed period school exclusion which will extend for more than five days, or the exclusion will result in a national curriculum test or public examination being missed, then it is possible to challenge the decision. For exclusions of less than five days it is normal practice to approach the school governors, asking that they reconsider the decision that has been made.
Parents of London school children who have been permanently excluded, whether that school is private, independent or state run, have a right to challenge the decision in the first instance through the Governing Body. Should this challenge fail, the next step is an Independent Appeals Panel. This process involves a formal hearing in front of an independent body which will undertake a review of the circumstances. The review will ensure that the correct procedures were followed and will look at the alternatives that were deliberated.
There is no power held by the Panel to order the school to overturn its decision and allow a student back after a permanent exclusion. However, it is able to recommend that the decision is reviewed if there is a successful challenge against it. If after this stage any decision made by the Appeal Panel or London school is not legally compliant, Judicial Review may be the next step.
What is meant by ‘School Exclusion’?
When a pupil is excluded from school in London, this means that they are not permitted to attend or be on the school premises. This could be either permanently or for a fixed period.
A school exclusion will usually result from proven serious misconduct. Whilst the London Local Authorities will in most cases do all they can to prevent exclusions, it is fairly normal for Head Teachers to use them to set examples and manage the behaviour of students at the school.
What is a Fixed Exclusion?
Commonly referred to as ‘being suspended’, a fixed exclusion entails the removal of a pupil from school for a fixed period of time on a temporary basis. During the school year, any one pupil can be excluded for no more than 45 days. The period of the exclusion must be defined and must be reasonable. It is not desirable for children to be excluded for too much time because the longer the period of absence, the more difficult it can be to re-integrate.
Sometimes a Head Teacher may decide, having reviewed the circumstances, that a permanent exclusion is the only option following the temporary exclusion. If this is the case then they are duty bound to write to the parents to clarify the reasons for the decision.
What is a Permanent Exclusion?
More frequently referred to as ‘being expelled’, permanent exclusion prevents a pupil from ever returning to the school. Unless the pupil poses a risk to others then a permanent exclusion should not be considered. In other words, the incident would have to be so serious or the ongoing behavioural issues so severe that there was no other option.
What Follows a London School Exclusion?
London school pupils excluded for a fixed period can expect to have homework set and marked for the first five school days. Beyond this time, or if the pupil has been permanently excluded, then it is down to the school to make arrangements for alternative full time education from the sixth school day onwards. These arrangements must be communicated to parents, and it is the parents’ duty to make sure their child attends. If a child is found on school property or in a public place during their exclusion period then this is classed as a criminal offence on the part of the parent and a prosecution by the Local Education Authority may follow, as could a fine.
London parents concerned about the fact that nothing has been arranged after five days should get in touch with the school if the exclusion was for a fixed term, or the Local Authority if it was permanent. In some situations, parents are not satisfied with the alternative arrangements and if is the case then you are able to express your concerns to the school or the Local Authority. If this does not allay your concerns then the next step is to make a complaint to the Department for Education (DfE).
A panel of governors will review all permanent exclusions and there is always the opportunity for both parent and child to attend the meeting and put their cases forward. If you wish as a parent, you have a right to take someone else with you for support, or to speak for you.
Where the decision of the Head Teacher is upheld by the governors and you still wish to challenge it, you can exercise your legal right to an independent review.
What can be Done When a Child with Special Educational Needs is Permanently Excluded from a London School?
It is unfortunate that some parents of London based children with special needs find themselves in a situation where the child has been expelled due to the failure of the school to deliver the necessary support. It may be that the child’s behaviour led to a decision to exclude them, but perhaps the underlying reasons or condition behind the behavioural issues were not considered, for example. In such cases, an appeal can be made along the lines of the procedures already outlined in this resource.
There may also be grounds for bringing a Disability Discrimination case at the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal in line with the Equality Act 2010. Parents in the Capital facing such circumstances can be reassured by the fact that HCB’s specialist London school exclusions lawyers have a well-respected track record in dealing with these cases.
No form of discrimination can be tolerated as a reason for school exclusion. If you feel that your child has been excluded from school on the grounds of their physical ability, sex, race or faith, then it is important you make this clear when you make your complaint or appeal.
What Assistance can I get from HCB Solicitors Regarding School Exclusion in London?
If you disagree with a decision made by your child’s school or your London Local Authority, our specialist London based education law solicitors will guide you step by step through the entire appeals process. Our job is to ensure procedure has been followed to the letter and that all the relevant school exclusion criteria have been incorporated within the process.
It is fairly common for our London education lawyers to find that in fact, procedures have not been properly followed. They have also experienced cases where Governing Bodies have failed to understand the official guidance provided by the Department for Education. Where a child has not been given the opportunity to state their case; where evidence is inconsistent or where witness statements were not included in the review, we will make sure that these facts are brought out in the open and push hard for justice for your child.
Should you wish to discuss a London school exclusion matter with one of our dedicated experts, you are welcome to get in touch at your convenience.