Exclusions: don't get caught out on procedure
With so much recent publicity about exclusions, schools may be concerned about their own appeals procedures. The advice given here is to have a group of governors nominated each year who are willing to serve on exclusion panels and for the clerk to invite them to serve in rotation to avoid any suggestion that the panel has been selected to produce a particular result.
It is always frustrating when a morally correct decision is overturned on the basis that it was not correctly arrived at, so it is very important that approved procedures are followed. Panel members should be impartial, have taken no previous part in the case and have no personal interest in its outcome.
All parties should have sight of all documents used in evidence before the hearing. Parents challenging an exclusion should have the opportunity to put their case and to bring a friend or adviser with them to the hearing, which should be held in a neutral setting, away from school if possible. Each side in the dispute should put its case in the presence of the other, and answer questions. No new evidence should be brought forward without an adjournment to allow for a response to be formulated.
The panel then makes its decision in private, based on an impartial review of the evidence. Did the pupil concerned commit the action alleged, and if so, was exclusion the appropriate response? It is also suggested that the panels should ask for full details of how a child with behavioural difficulties has been supported and the parents involved.
The leaflet also deals, at times rather confusingly, with local authority panels on exclusions and admissions appeals. Governors may by involved in two ways, both in defending their decisions concerning their own schools or appealing against local authority decisions and also in serving as lay members on appeals panels. In all cases, panel members are urged to apply the same high standards of objectivity.
The institution gives a comprehensive list of sources of help and advice, particularly important as procedures and composition of panels vary according to different types of school. It is a timely reminder to governors to review their policies and standing committee on exclusions. You never know when they may be needed.
* Institution of School and CollegeGovernors (ISCG), Avondale Park School,Sirdar Road, London W11 4EE.Tel: 0171 229 0200. One copy free with sae; Pounds 5 for up to 50 copies.