William Eichler 11 November 2019

Exclusion process suffers ‘serious weaknesses’

The current system for excluding pupils from school suffers from ‘serious weaknesses’ and needs overhauling, a new report has found.

Published by the law reform and human rights organisation JUSTICE, Challenging School Exclusions examines the processes used to make and review a decision to permanently exclude a pupil in England.

It found that schools have an inconsistent understanding of their Equality Act duties and that the governors’ board review is ‘ineffective’ and ‘lacks independence’.

It also concluded that Independent Review Panels do not have adequate powers to reinstate or order alternatives for the pupil, even if the exclusion was unlawful.

Among a number of recommendations, JUSTICE called for more robust systems and processes in schools prior to exclusion, including mandatory training on the law governing exclusion powers for all teachers in leadership positions.

The charity also said there should be more consistent consideration of unmet needs, particularly special educational and health needs, prior to permanent exclusion.

‘Exclusion can have such a devastating impact on a child’s future that it is vital that exclusion decisions meet all the required statutory standards,’ said Professor Richard de Friend, chair of JUSTICE’S exclusion working party.

‘We have concluded that at present we cannot be confident that they do because of the weaknesses we have identified in the current procedures. We firmly believe that our recommendations will remedy these and therefore hope that the next Government will adopt them.’

Andrea Coomber, director of JUSTICE, said: ‘Every child has a fundamental right to an education. This report shows that the current system does not go far enough to protect children from unlawful interference with this right, nor does it provide swift and effective remedies when such interference does take place.

‘The report boldly rethinks the process of school exclusions and how they are challenged, proposing a system which is procedurally fair, efficient, robust, accessible and accommodating of the needs of all children.’

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