The government has updated its guidance on exclusion from schools and pupil referral units.
The guidance, which covers promoting positive behaviour, the procedures for excluding pupils and the workings of the independent appeal panels, remains substantially the same as that issued in 2004. One important change, however, is that it is now mandatory for clerks and members of appeal panels to receive training.
Panel members and clerks who were in post during the year to 1 September 2006 will be allowed to continue for up to two years from that date before the training requirement applies to them. Once panel members and clerks have received training they will be required to undergo refresher training at least once every two years.
Local authorities have been asked to identify and train all panel members to ensure they can arrange hearings within the necessary time. The DfES expects training to take at least half a day and possibly a full day. The guidance says it should be ‘delivered by someone who has knowledge, and possibly experience, of exclusion appeals’ and ‘prepared in advance with time allocated for people to ask questions and clarify any issues’.
Clerks and panel members can be trained together or separately, but the trainer is expected to point out the differences in their respective duties and responsibilities. An exclusion appeal panels training pack is available through the TeacherNet website.
There is also a new recommendation that the headteacher and governor members of an appeal panel should ‘wherever possible’ reflect the type of school involved in the case as well as being from the same phase of education.
Along with the parent (or pupil if over 18), the governing body and the local authority, the headteacher is now entitled to be represented, including legally, at the hearing. However, the DfES says it would not expect the head and the governing body to be separately represented but would expect either a representative of one or the other or joint representation.
There is also a new recommendation that an excluded pupil under the age of 18 should be encouraged to attend the hearing and to speak on his or her own behalf, if he or she wishes to do so and the parent agrees.
Other changes involve more detailed guidance to panels, which the DfES intends to be clearer ‘but without fettering their discretion’.
Revisions have also been made on disabled pupils, removing pupils from school in exceptional circumstances and parallel criminal proceedings.
Improving Behaviour and Attendance: Guidance on Exclusion from Schools and Pupil Referral Units is available at www.teachernet.gov.uk/exclusion
Training requirements for appeal panel members and clerks
Within the last two years, the panel member or clerk has been given sufficient training and received such information and instruction as is suitable and sufficient for him to know:
- the requirements of the regulations governing exclusions (and statutory guidance)
- the role of the chair of an appeal panel
- the role of the clerk to an appeal panel
- the duties of the appeal panel under the Race Relations Act 1976
- the duties of the appeal panel under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 as amended
- the duties the appeal panel may have under Part 4 of the Equality Act 2006
- the effect of section 6 Human Rights Act 1998 (acts of public authorities unlawful if not compatible with certain human rights) and the need to act compatibly with human rights protected by that Act
- the need for the appeal panel to observe procedural fairness and the rules of natural justice