School exclusions – the right to appeal - Palmers Solicitors

School exclusions – the right to appeal

School exclusions – the right to appeal

When a pupil is excluded from school, it can be a distressing time for the student and their parents or guardians, and cause disruption to their lives.

For parents – or college students over the age of 16 – there may be the opportunity to challenge a school exclusion, particularly if there is suspicion that the exclusion was unfair or unlawful.

Education expert Colin Adamson covers the law surrounding appealing exclusions and how legal support can help you through the appeal process.

Understanding exclusions

Schools may exclude pupils either temporarily (sometimes called “suspension”) or permanently (known as “expulsion”).

A suspension is normally temporary and is for a set period of time – which must not exceed a total of 45 school days in a single academic year.

A permanent exclusion usually results in the pupil being removed from the school roll and having to find alternative arrangements to meet their legal education requirements.

Expulsions should be part of a scale of sanctions, not a first port of call.

It is important to know that a child can only be excluded if the decision is:

  • Fair – would this be done to any pupil? Has the pupil been less severely sanctioned beforehand? The school must be consistent in how the rules are applied.
  • Lawful – schools or staff must not discriminate against pupils or expel them for characteristics protected by the Equality Act.
  • Proportionate – Pupils should not be expelled for minor or one-off infractions, unless they present a safety concern.
  • Rational – There should be logic behind the decision and follow a pattern of escalating sanctions in response to misbehaviour.
  • Reasonable – The decision should be carefully considered, not rash or due to a minor offence.

Parents or guardians must also be informed, in writing and as soon as possible, of temporary or permanent exclusion.  

Appealing an exclusion

An exclusion can only be appealed under certain circumstances.

Parents or qualifying pupils can appeal an exclusion with the school’s governing board if it lasts for five days or more, or it means the child will miss a public exam, such as a GCSE.

The first step towards appealing an exclusion is to ask the school’s governing board to overturn the decision.

You’ll be invited for a review meeting within 15 school days for a permanent exclusion, where you’ll need to present your reasoning and any evidence that your child should not have been excluded to the governing board.

If the governing board does not overturn the decision, you’re entitled to ask the local council or academy trust for a review with an Independent Review Panel. Your school governors must tell you how to do this.

In such cases, a Head Teacher cannot permanently exclude a child from school until the Independent Review Panel has deliberated and made a final decision.

The panel will listen to the case presented by the school and the parent or guardian. You may engage a solicitor to act on your behalf, as well as a Special Educational Needs (SEN) specialist if your child has confirmed or suspected additional needs.

If your appeal is denied, you can apply to the Local Government Ombudsman or Department for Education office to review whether your case was properly handled – although the decision will not be overturned at this stage.

If your child has been excluded from school and you need advice on lodging an appeal, please contact our expert team today.