Challenging School Exclusions

The challenge 

JUSTICE has convened a working party which is examining the processes for challenging school exclusions, with the aim of making them fairer, more effective and more efficient.

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, pupils with special educational needs, pupils on free school meals and Black Caribbean and Gypsy/Roma and Traveller children 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.

The members of the working party are: 

  • Ray Burningham (member of the Administrative Justice Council, former secretary to the Council on Tribunals, former Chief Executive of the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council)
  • Liz Campbell (former governor, JUSTICE board member)
  • Richard de Friend (Chair) (former Chair of governors of a secondary academy, former board member of College of Law, former Pro Vice-Chancellor of University of Kent)
  • Sarah Hannett (Matrix Chambers)
  • Andrew Lockley (part-time First-tier Tribunal Judge (Special Educational Needs and Disability), former head of public law at Irwin Mitchell)
  • Laura Pease (principal of Whitefield School, governor)
  • Erin Smart (Solicitor, Irwin Mitchell)
  • Alex Temple (Public Lawyer and Policy Officer, Just for Kids Law)
  • Robert Thomas (Professor of Administrative Law, The University of Manchester, Independent Review Panel chair, AJC member)
  • Ibrahim Warne (grassroots representative)

We are very grateful to Sidley Austin LLP who are generously supporting the Working Party.

Read the Challenging School Exclusions report here

Read the press release here