A Guide to School Admissions & Exclusions

Nobody wants their child to miss out on their education, whether that's through a direct exclusion or because they did not make it into their first preference school.

This guide is designed to explain how you can respond to admission or exclusion decisions that go against your child.

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Areas of this Guide

Admissions and Exclusions Advice

Our expert team of Education & Community Care solicitors deal with a high volume of cases where schools have either unfairly denied admission to a child, or falsely excluded a pupil.

In many cases, parents considered not appealing decisions, but it is important to know that there are processes in place to ensure that no child is unjustly overlooked for admission, and that pupils are not unlawfully expelled.

The appeal process for admission and exclusion decisions should be fairly straightforward, as a conversation with the Headteacher or Governing Body will identify any mistakes that have been made during the decision making process.

The processes for appealing admissions differs slightly to the exclusions process, however both follow a similar pattern:

  1. Begin appeals process with the school
  2. Review evidence gathered by the school prior to the decision being made
  3. Escalate issue to higher Governing Body or Academy Trust
  4. Make an appeal to independent body
  5. Attend hearing to make case for unfair exclusion or admission decision

If your child – or a child that you know – has been denied admission or unfairly excluded, you should seek advice from our qualified education team (formerly known as Maxwell Gillott). Our team of experts are recognised as the country's leading education lawyers and will be able to give you help and advice on the appeals process.

In some cases, unfair admissions decisions and exclusions could be based on a child's Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). In cases such as these, it is important that a discrimination case is brought forward and the offending school or academy's discrimination is challenged.

For admission appeals, we offer a free appeals guide that will provide you with all of the information you need if you are looking to lodge an appeal to an admissions decision. Our exclusions services are fixed fee, allowing us to assess the merits of any case.

Both admission appeals and unlawful exclusion cases could be covered by Legal Aid, which allows eligible candidates to receive fully funded legal advice.

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Unlawful Exclusions

Unlawful exclusions happen all over the country and often cases are not challenged by an external party. Schools and academies can either be ignorant to the correct process, or they can wilfully try to ignore the law, but every exclusion should follow a specific set of steps.

Each school or academy will have a specific policy in place for handling exclusions; however there are government guidelines that should be adhered to in all exclusion cases.

When we receive an unlawful exclusion case we will always begin by conducting a detailed analysis of the evidence gathered by the Headteacher when they made their case for exclusions.

There are a number of situations that could result in an unlawful exclusion appeal being upheld, these include:

  • Simply telling a child to not return to the school
  • Putting pressure on a parent to withdraw a child from a school under threat of permanent exclusion
  • Encouraging a parent to sign a document stating that their child will be 'home educated' and taken off the roll
  • Placing a child in an alternative provision schedule during their GCSE year

Once we have established that a child has been unlawfully excluded we will go through every step of the appeals process with you, so that you understand how we can move forward and ensure that your child is reinstated.

Our first appeal will go to the school or academy's Governing Body or Academy Trust. Even if they decide to uphold the exclusion decision, we can take the case to the Independent Review Panel (IRP) – who will arrange a hearing for the case. Beyond the IRP, we can assist parents with a Judicial Review - which can challenge the IRP if they are judged to have poorly explained their findings, or if you are unhappy with the panel's conduct during the hearing.

Unlawful exclusion should not happen, but schools and academies may cut corners if they wish to remove a child who they deem to be disruptive, difficult, or a bad influence. In some cases we have even seen schools and academies removing children from roll because they were worried that the child's poor grades could affect their statistics.

If you suspect that a child has been excluded on unlawful grounds, get in touch with our specialists to see how we can help mediate the appeal process. In most successful unlawful exclusion cases we help to reinstate the child; however we can also seek alternative solutions if another resolution would be more beneficial to the child.

School Admission Appeals

It can be disheartening when a child does not make it into their first preference school, however in some cases we are able to successfully appeal a decision and have the school or academy add the child to roll.

Our free school admissions information pack will guide you through every step of the extremely confusing admission appeals process. With sections covering:

  1. How to begin the appeals process
  2. The appeals process in full
  3. How to time manage during an appeal
  4. How to handle an admissions hearing

The type of appeal required for any admissions case depends entirely on the age group, school, or academy in question, however most appeals involve a simple two stage appeal process. The standard two stage appeal process applies to:

  • Secondary schools
  • In-year admissions
  • Some primary admissions

Appealing certain primary school admissions can add some complexity, as can appealing an infant class size decision (i.e. if your child is entering an infant school where there can be no more than 30 children to each qualified teacher).

No matter how complex the admissions process, we can help review the evidence and will provide a tailored process required to lodge an appeal specific to your case.

We have helped parents appeal admission decisions based on a variety of factors, with the key step in every appeal case being the gathering of evidence and information that can be put forward to a panel to support the appeal. Imogen Jolley, Partner and Head of Education and Community Care, has specialised in admissions law and procedures for over 15 years and has helped countless families appeal an unfair admission decision.

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Case Studies

Case Study 1

Following a family breakdown, Peter had to move schools; however he was not able to settle in a new town. His mother applied for his old school place to be given back to him, as she planned to move back to the old family home, but her application was turned down as there were no available places.

An appeal was lodged on her behalf and it was argued that the difficulties Peter had to cope with - together the emotional effect that having to go to yet another new school would have - far outweighed those that the school would have to cope with should an extra child be allowed into the school.

The independent appeal panel agreed with this and ordered that a place be given to Peter at his old school. He is now attending and progressing well.

Case Study 2

We took an exclusion case in which an academically able pupil was reduced to three days a week 'alternative provision' by his academy. The pupil in question was academically able, however - due to problems at home – was having behavioural difficulties at school. His academy excluded him from the school site and put him on a programme that consisted of three days working on a farm, and two days a week doing basic skills in the church crypt. This was despite the fact that the child held ambitions to obtain their GCSEs.

After taking on the case, we issued court proceedings for judicial review.

Following this, the academy agreed he could do his GCSEs via a recognised online education provider, and at the same time undertake some alternative provisions - so he could be in a social setting with peers.

Case Study 3

One of our more complex exclusions cases involved a dyslexic child who, due to his learning difficulty, had low self-esteem and often became frustrated at school. These difficulties often resulted in behavioural problems, which meant the school no longer wanted to keep him on roll.

As they had no official grounds for exclusion, the school put pressure on his mother to withdraw him voluntarily – they even threatened formal exclusion if she did not remove him herself.

Due to her fear of an official exclusion, the mother complied with the school's wishes – this was now an unlawful exclusion case. By the time that the mother instructed us of her case, he son been out of school for a year. Another academy had offered him a place, and the offer had been accepted, but before he had started there the academy withdrew their offer. It appeared that the academy had spoken to the child's original school, who advised against admission – this effectively unlawfully excluded the child from a second school.

Judicial review proceedings against the academy resulted in him being readmitted to school, where he is getting help for his dyslexia and is now enjoying his lessons.

Contact us now to discuss how we can help you by completing our, no obligation, online enquiry form and we will call you back or you can call us on freephone: 0808 129 3320.

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Imogen Jolley - Education Law Solicitor | Simpson Millar| Lancaster

Imogen Jolley
Partner, Head of Education & Community Care

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