Helpline

Q

Should independent schools allow any appeal against the expulsion of pupils?

A

With all the attention which has been given to exclusions from state schools, it is not surprising that parents who send their children to independent schools, and indeed those who teach in them, should have questioned the apparently absolute right of such schools to expel pupils without any redress.

That they have that right is not in question. The relationship between parents and independent schools is a contractual one, with the school reserving the right to end that contract if it decides that a pupil's presence is no longer acceptable. The decision is often delegated to the head - although he or she is sometimes required to consult the chair of governors.

Some years ago, a parent sought to challenge an expulsion in the High Court, but, although the judge expressed sympathy with the parent, he found no grounds for intervention in an area wherethe court had no jurisdiction.

Some independent schools, however, have come to the view that arbitrary expulsion on disciplinary grounds, while valid in law, offends against principles of natural justice and they have established their own appeal mechanisms. I believe that such procedures are to be commended as good practice.

Q

My son was recently forced to undergo a drugs test at the public school which he attends. Does he or I have any rights in this matter?

A

It is not surprising that all schools should be doing all they can to restrict the use of illegal substances - and it is not surprising, either, that this should be seen as a particular problem in boarding schools.

A number of such schools have introduced testing under certain circumstances and, where they have done so, parents should be informed of the policy. One is entitled to expect that it will be even-handed and fair, that it will be impartially and properly administered, that the tests are reliable and that pupils and parents will have the opportunity to be heard.

If your son's school has not fulfilled these conditions, you should complain to the headteacher and, if not satisfied, to the governing body. The only ultimate sanction you have is to withdraw your son from the school.

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