Posted on 16th March 2015

(State funded schools)

For a parent, the prospect of a child being excluded from school is incredibly frightening. For that child too there can be long lasting implications for their academic achievement and even social development.

The Power

Schools do not simply have carte blanche to exclude who they please and when it pleases them. The power to exclude a child, be it for a period of time or permanently comes from section 51A (1) of the Education Act 2002 as amended.

The Act specifically places the decision in the hands of the Head Teacher.


The basic exclusion framework is in three stages:

  1. Headteacher makes an exclusion decision.
  2. Review by the Governors (maintained school/Academy), or Management Committee (pupil referral unit).
  3. Further review by an independent review panel established by the local authority (maintained schools and PRUs) or proprietor (Academy).

How can a lawyer help

Local authorities virtually always retain somebody in their legal department with experience of school exclusions. For a parent, or for an Academy, such legal support is not always readily available.

It is rare that a lawyer would be involved before the headteacher makes the exclusion decision. But, once the decision to exclude is made a lawyer can consider:

  1. Has the process undertaken by the school been done in accordance with School Discipline (Pupil Exclusions and Reviews) (England) Regulations 2012/1033 ?
  2. Has the process undertaken by the school met common law notions of procedural fairness?
  3. Is the school’s decision in accordance with the Equality Act 2010?
  4. It is worth appealing?

There are companies on the internet who charge fortunes for pro forma appeal documents or who will produce you and your child copy and pasted legal arguments. Parents can go directly to lawyers to represent their children during appeal processes.

As an Academy, the budget for a lawyer may not be obvious on the face of a balance sheet. However, if one factors in lengthy hearings or protracted processes then the cost in staffing can be huge. A specialist lawyer can cut forensically to the real issues very quickly.

If your child faces exclusion, or your Academy is going through an appeal process, then why not telephone NoVate today and be put in touch with an Education Lawyer. Call on 0845 201 0160 or complete a contact form and one of the team will be in touch.

Written by Ian Brownhill, member of the Education Law Team and Regulatory and Public Law Groups at No5 Chambers. He is a school governor at two primary academies.