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Expulsions from an independent school - your child's rights?

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In this article we will look at the circumstances in which a permanent exclusion can take place, what the exclusion process is and what you can do to support your child.

The right to expel a pupil derives from the contract between the school and the fee payer, normally the parent. Contractual terms can vary therefore you need to check what the contract says.

However, some of the contractual terms between the school and the parent may not be in writing but are still valid and enforceable.

Private schools have their own policies and procedures for excluding their pupils permanently. Such policies form part of the contract between the school and the parent so it is important to check these if your child is facing a permanent exclusion.

All independent schools must have a school policy on admissions, discipline and exclusions under the regulations and these policies must be made available to you if you request them.

The school should also make it clear at the start what standards of behaviour are expected from your child, the sanctions for breaching those standards and the procedure in respect of how sanctions will be implemented.

Examples of where an independent school may expel its pupil

  • Failure to pay school fees
  • Parents causing serious or repeated nuisance on school premises
  • Failure to meet the required academic standards
  • Serious disagreement with or contravention of the school’s policies on social inclusion, diversity or equality

What are your child’s rights when facing expulsion?

  • There has to be a fair procedure
  • There has to be a sufficient investigation of the facts to justify the decision
  • Your child should know the nature of the accusation that is being made against him or her
  • Your child has the right to a fair hearing
  • The sanction should be proportionate in respect of the behaviour complained of

Poor academic performance

Your child’s school should consult you about your child’s lack of performance. You should also be notified as to the effect that the poor performance of your child will have on him or her at the school.

The school should consider all the circumstances of the case. The school should allow you to express your views in respect of the issues which may have caused your child’s performance being unacceptable before the school makes a decision to expel him or her. 

What can you do if your child has been excluded due to failing to reach a satisfactory standard in an exam?

You may be able to counterclaim for this type of breach. In practice your case will be determined on the facts. For example, the school may allow your child to continue education with the school if you can show that it was the school that failed to meet the required standards of education and hence your child did not achieve the exam results the school expected.

If you succeed in proving that the school’s decision was wrong including its procedure in reaching that decision this will be in fact a breach of contract on the part of the school and you may be able to claim damages and/or reinstatement if you wish your child to continue with education at that particular school.

Conclusion

Expulsion from a private school derives entirely from the contract between the school and you. The school’s policies and procedures form part of that contract so you need to read those in conjunction with the main contract you signed. The decision to expel is at the discretion of the head providing he or she has acted fairly and in accordance with the procedures of natural justice (a fair procedure).