Exclusion is a fixed term period of suspension; this is a potential minefield for head teachers and governor discipline committees. Maintaining school discipline, managing behaviour and ensuring compliance with relevant guidelines, policies and legal obligations is key. The interaction between various school policies, the need to be mindful of any special educational needs and disability factors as well as balancing the needs of the school with potentially vulnerable, yet disruptive pupils who could benefit from external support.

The exclusion rules and regulations changed in September 2012, placing new obstacles and obligations in the exclusion process. Although, regulations removed the independent appeal panel and replaced that panel with the independent review panel which can no longer reinstate a pupil, other changes were made that were not so generous for schools. The Independent appeal panel could remedy any procedural errors that arose at either the investigation, exclusion or review process. The Independent review panel (IRP) cannot do that. If there is a procedural error, the whole exclusion process may fall away.

A case that was presented before the High Court considered the role and responsibility of the IRP and concluded that the principles of judicial review referred to in the regulations do in fact encompass the whole range of judicial review considerations the should be in the mind of a judge.

The practical impact for schools is that if there is a failure in the process and procedure, then the matter could be subject to judicial review in the High Court. Legal aid still remains the judicial review challenge and the cost of judicial review can easily extend into the tens of thousands of pounds.

The scrutiny of the High Court is not an experience the school would wish to have, in the heat of the moment and in the pressure of the circumstances the ability to follow process and ensure a robust audit trail can sometimes be lost.

Training for governors, senior leaders and head teachers is available on a school by school, or school shared with other schools basis.

Independent advice and consultancy on a case-by-case basis is also available and in all cases of exclusion and school behaviour and discipline, taking advice is advisable, cost-effective and can ensure that matters do not escalate beyond your control.

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