Coram Children’s Legal Centre contributes to report on school exclusions

Published: Monday 11th November 2019

The current review process for challenging school exclusions in England is failing to provide an effective remedy for children, according to a new report published today by human rights organisation JUSTICE.

Coram Children’s Legal Centre (CCLC) is one of the contributors to the report ‘Challenging School Exclusions’ which makes recommendations for creating a system which is fair, efficient, accessible and accommodates the needs of all children, including vulnerable groups.

The report builds on the work of the Timpson Review published in May 2019, which made 30 recommendations to government in relation to school exclusion practice, and which Coram contributed to with new research findings on parents and pupils’ views on exclusion.

As one of only two providers of education advice representation under legal aid, and a provider of free education advice to thousands of individuals a year through our Child Law Advice Service (CLAS), CCLC has a unique insight into the challenges facing children excluded from school. Our research highlighted that exclusion was prima facie unlawful in 25% of calls and that 24% of all unlawful exclusions related to children who either had undiagnosed special educational needs (SEN) or were not receiving sufficient support for the suspected or diagnosed SEN.

CLAS also receives a significant number of calls involving children who are missing out on education as a consequence of unlawful practices such as part-time timetabling, managed moves, encouragement to home school or other types of informal exclusion activity which is not captured in national datasets.

Kamena Dorling, Group Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Coram, said: “We welcome JUSTICE’s much-needed analysis of the process for challenging exclusion decisions.

“The use of school exclusion must be lawful, reasonable and fair and, in the case of permanent exclusions, only a last resort, where absolutely necessary. It is clear that the legal duties relevant to exclusions are not always fully understood by schools and in light of this we welcomed Timpson’s recommendation that the Department for Education (DfE) should update statutory guidance on exclusion, which JUSTICE endorses. We firmly believe that information on the exclusions process aimed at children, co-produced by children, is also necessary.

“We also welcome JUSTICE’s recommendation that before a pupil with an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan is excluded, an annual review or interim/emergency review of their plan must be conducted and that any pupil without an EHC Plan, who is at risk of permanent exclusion on the basis of persistent disruptive behaviour, should be assessed by an educational psychologist before the exclusion is finalised.

“CCLC has in the past advocated for the reinstatement of Independent Appeals Panels as we do not believe the current process offers a genuinely independent appraisal of exclusion decisions, and upholds the child’s right to a fair hearing and effective remedy. We support JUSTICE’s call for an appeals body, and the suggestion that that exclusion appeals should be transferred to the First Tier Tribunal (SEND). However, this recommendation should go alongside recognition of the current problems facing the SEND Tribunal in terms of postponement – much work is needed to improve the system as a whole if children are to receive the education they deserve.”

Useful links:

Read the full report Challenging School Exclusions

Find out more about Coram’s research on school exclusions