How to Appeal against a School Exclusion

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Sarah Woosey

Interim Head of Education Law

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When it comes to your child’s education, few issues are as emotionally charged and concerning as school exclusions. A school exclusion is the removal of a student from school premises, either temporarily or permanently, often as a disciplinary response to their behaviour. This decision can be profoundly unsettling for both parents and children, leaving them grappling with a complex system of ensuring they receive suitable education and support.


What is a School Exclusion?

A school exclusion is a removal of a child from school. This can be a temporary suspension, or it can be permanent.

Fixed-term suspensions are temporary and typically last for a specified number of days whereas permanent exclusions are as they sound and result in the student being permanently removed from the school. The latter should only ever happen as a measure of last resort and should be reserved for serious and/or persistent breaches of a school’s behaviour policy where there is a risk of harm should the child continue attending the school.

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If your child has been excluded from a mainstream or academy school, there are several steps you can take to challenge the decision.

Get in touch today!

To see if we can help you with your appeal against a school exclusion, call us on 0808 239 9764 or 

Challenge the Decision

The governing body of the school must consider an exclusion if your child has been excluded permanently or for a fixed period over 5 days and/or the exclusion means they'll miss an exam. In cases of suspensions of less than 5 days, you can still ask that they be considered but the governing body does not have to do so automatically as is the case for permanent exclusions.

The governing body can overturn a permanent exclusion however it is rare for them to do so.

For more information see School Exclusion and Expulsion Appeals or get in touch with our Education Solicitors and SEN Lawyers for legal advice.

Ask for an Independent Review

If your child was permanently excluded or you don't have any luck with the governors, your next option would be to ask for an independent review panel hearing to be arranged by your Local Authority or Academy Trust.

You will be given an opportunity to put your case to the independent review panel in writing and at the hearing. The independent review panel will then have the option following the hearing to either:

  • Agree with the governing board's decision to permanently exclude 
  • Recommend the governing body reconsiders reinstatement
  • Withdraw the decision to permanently exclude and direct the governing body to reconsider reinstatement.

These reviews are difficult but our lawyers have vast experiencing advising families in such situations. Contact Simpson Millar for advice.

The IRP are applying the principles of judicial review and determining whether the exclusion was lawful both procedurally and in terms of the reason. They are a review panel rather than appeal panel which may sound similar but is an important distinction because they are reviewing the lawfulness of the decision made based on the evidence originally available. It will rarely be appropriate to introduce new evidence or arguments at this stage.

The decision of an IRP is final unless there is further challenge through judicial review.

A young boy looking sad, being comforted by parent

Ask if Your Child's SEND were Taken into Account

If you are appealing to the independent review panel and believe your child has Special Educational Needs (SEN), regardless of whether the school agrees they do,  you can request that a SEN expert is appointed to attend your review meeting.

Their role would be to provide the panel with impartial and specialist advice on how SEND might be relevant to the exclusion. Furthermore, if you believe that the school didn't consider your child's SEN when deciding to exclude, contact our Education Solicitors for legal advice.

Statistically, children with SEND are far more likely to be excluded from school. It's usually the case that excluded students with SEND haven't been given the right level of support, which can cause difficulties, which lead to an exclusion. Students with a disability should expect schools to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate that disability and failure to do so can be grounds for challenging a decision to exclude based on discrimination.

Consider Finding a New School

You could contact other local schools to find out whether they have any available spaces. But bear in mind that if your child is of compulsory school age, your Local Authority must provide them with education, which should normally be full-time in school, from the 6th day of an exclusion.

Alternatively, some people might look into private schools.

Two people in discussion, one is taking notes

Tactics Used by Schools to Unlawfully Exclude a Child

By law, schools can only exclude children on disciplinary grounds and the decision is made by the headteacher. But, our team has seen situations where schools have attempted to exclude for other reasons. Unless a child is officially told they can't go to school, stopping them from attending either fully or on a limited schedule is unlawful.

The following are examples of unlawful behaviour our team has seen:

  • Putting pressure on parents to withdraw their children from school, and threatening to exclude them if they don’t remove the child. Often parents are told if they withdraw their child it stops them having an exclusion on their school record.
  • Keeping a child in isolation until their parents agree to move them to another school
  • Informally excluding a child with SEND because the school says it can no longer meet the child’s needs, which could include only allowing the child to attend school on a reduced timetable.
  • Unlawful exclusions where a child is excluded without any paperwork being provided to formalise the exclusion
  • Excluding a student for reasons relating to their academic performance
  • Excluding a pupil for a reason which is discriminatory

Having to find another school at short notice can be stressful and difficult for parents, especially since some parents can end up paying hefty fees for private schools. Losing a place at school is devastating for children and their families, and can cause a lot of stress emotional trauma, as well as extra inconvenience.

How Simpson Millar Can Help You

Simpson Millar have one of the most dedicated team of education law specialists in the UK. Our Education Solicitors and SEND Lawyers have successfully helped many families get the best outcome for their children. They are ranked as Tier 1 by both Chambers and Partners and Legal 500. Contact us to find out how we can support you and your child.

Unparalleled Expertise

Our Education Solicitors and Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Lawyers possess an unparalleled depth of knowledge in this field. With a wealth of experience, they have successfully championed the rights of countless families, securing fair and just outcomes for children who have faced the daunting experience of exclusion or threatened exclusion.

Comprehensive Support

When you turn to Simpson Millar, you are not merely accessing legal counsel but also enlisting a dedicated team that can stand by your side throughout the entire process. We understand the emotional toll that a school exclusion can take on parents and children, and we are here to provide not only legal guidance but also the empathetic support you need during this challenging journey. Our advice is clear, simple and practical.

Tailored Solutions

Each case is unique, and we approach it as such. We work diligently to understand the specific circumstances surrounding your child's exclusion and craft a legal strategy that aligns with your objectives. Whether you are seeking to challenge the decision, request an independent review, or explore alternative educational options, our team will tailor their advice and approach to your needs and preferences.

Your Child's Best Interests

The best interest of your child is at the heart of our mission. You can trust us to tirelessly advocate for your child's rights and well-being.

Contact Us for Guidance

If you are confronted with the challenging prospect of a school exclusion and seek expert guidance, do not hesitate to reach out to us. Contact Simpson Millar, and let us begin the journey to support you and your child. 

Our team is ready to provide the legal expertise, compassionate assistance, and unwavering commitment needed to navigate this intricate process successfully. Your child's future is our priority, and we are here to stand with you every step of the way.


UK Government. (2017). 'Supporting Mental Health in Schools and Colleges.' In C. White, J. Lea, J. Gibb, & C. Street (Eds.), Supporting Mental Health in Schools and Colleges (Research Report). Available at: (Accessed: August 2017).

UK Government. (2023). 'School Behaviour Exclusions.' Available at: (Accessed: 2023, date unknown)

UK Government. The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006,

Sarah Woosey Profile Picture

Sarah Woosey

Interim Head of Education Law

Areas of Expertise:
Education Law

Sarah re-joined Simpson Millar in 2018 having previously trained at the firm before spending a number of years working for a different national firm. She has a number of years’ experience in a range of Education Law and Social Care issues and has focused particularly on getting suitable education and/or services for children and young adults with a wide range of Special Educational Needs and/or disabilities.

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