Challenging School Exclusions

The challenge 

The number and rate of recorded permanent and fixed-term (i.e. temporary) exclusions has been increasing year-on-year since 2012/13.   In addition, it is estimated that there are thousands more pupils who are “informally” excluded from school and are therefore not captured in the official school exclusions data.

Being excluded has a significant impact on the pupils’ lives; pupils who have been excluded are far less likely to reach the same levels of academic achievement, and far more likely to end up in prison, than their peers. Boys and pupils with special educational needs, on free school meals and of certain ethnicities are over represented in the exclusion statistics. It is therefore crucial that there is a fair and accessible process for challenging exclusions, so that all children, whatever their background can obtain the education they are entitled to.

However, the current process for challenging schools’ decisions to exclude pupils does not comply with basic public law principles and fails to provide an effective remedy, not least because it is in practice inaccessible to many parents and pupils and because the review panels do not have the power to reinstate pupils in school.

The Working Party

The Working party will examine the current processes for challenging school exclusions in England.  It will make practical recommendations with a view to creating a system which is procedurally fair, efficient, accessible and accommodating of the needs of the those with vulnerabilities.

In pursuing its aims the Working Party will:

  • consider the procedural fairness, efficiency and effectiveness of each stage of the current process for challenging school exclusions in England, including challenges to exclusions brought in the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) and by way of judicial review, as well as:
    • the guidance available to schools;
    • the extent to which governor and independent review panel members understand the process and follow applicable legislation and guidance;
    • the appropriate standard of proof; and
    • the impact of external agencies and organisations on the process;
  • consider the extent to which parents and pupils understand the process for challenging exclusions in England and are able to effectively participate in the process, including the support available to them; and
  • identify schools and types of exclusions which fall outside of the current process for challenging exclusions in England and recommend ways to enable parents and pupils to challenge such decisions.

The Working Party will also consider the approach to challenging school exclusions in other jurisdictions, in particular the devolved UK jurisdictions, and whether anything can be drawn from those jurisdictions that will be of benefit to ours.