Excluded pupils lose right to independent appeal

10th February 2006 at 00:00
At least two academies fail to give pupils the right to an independent appeal if they have been excluded, The TES has found.

As independent state schools, they can write their own rules on admissions and exclusions. Headteachers of all state schools have the power to exclude pupils, a decision which is then open to review by a three-member panel of governors. If governors uphold the decision, it can then be referred to an independent panel, set up by the local authority, which has the power to reinstate a pupil.

All 27 academies opened so far spell out their own rules on exclusion in their individual funding agreements. Although most have created systems mirroring those elsewhere in the state sector, at least three apparently fail to offer parents the right of an independent appeal.

A policy statement drawn up for two academies sponsored by the Haberdashers' Livery Company, in Kent and south London, show that heads have the initial power to exclude. Parents then have 14 days to put their case before "an appeals panel", made up of "three members of the governing body, none of whom shall have been involved in any way in the decision to exclude the student". However, it goes on to say that the decision of the appeals panel is "binding on all parties", with no mention of a second hearing, independent of the school or its governors.

According to the documents, the policy at Haberdashers' Aske's Knights academy and Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham college academy, which both only opened in September, is under "periodic review". Dr Elizabeth Sidwell, chief executive of the federation which runs both schools, was unavailable to comment this week.

At the Capital city academy, north London, the head's decision is reviewed by a three-member disciplinary committee. If the exclusion is upheld, parents have the right of a second appeal, but it is not independent of the school or its governors.

All other academy agreements make clear that a second appeal is carried out by a panel completely independent of the academy or its sponsors. It normally involves the serving or recently retired headteacher of another school.

The Capital City funding agreement says: "The chairman of governors will make the appointment of both the appeals committee and its chair. The appeals committee will consist of three governors, none of who has had a previous involvement in the case, and not including the principal, teacher governor or staff governor."

However, Philip O'Hear, principal of Capital city academy, told The TES that although these arrangements form part of the funding agreement, in practice the school used a fully-independent third-party appeal process, administered by Brent council. "We should get that part of the funding agreement formally changed, because in practice we use Brent for appeals.

Natural justice dictates that we do so," he said.

Graeme Paton

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