Pupil exclusions: who has the right to know?

The Department for Education has previously reported that exclusions in schools are on the rise. The number of permanent exclusions in 2016/17 rose to 7,720, and it is estimated that an average of 2,010 fixed period exclusions took place each day in the same academic year. With this in mind, schools should ensure they are familiar with the procedure once a pupil has been excluded from the school.

The DfE offers guidance to schools in the form of statutory guidance on its website. Maintained schools, academies and pupil referral units are required to comply with this which acts as a guide to the legislation that governs the exclusion of pupils.

The guidance provides that, if a pupil is excluded from the school, the headteacher has a duty to notify the parents of this without delay. In addition to this, the headteacher must provide the parents with the following information:

  • the reasons for the exclusion;
  • the period of a fixed-period exclusion or, for a permanent exclusion, the fact that it is permanent;
  • the parents' right to make representations about the exclusion to the governing board and how the pupil may be involved in this;
  • how any representations should be made; and
  • where there is a legal requirement for the governing board to consider the exclusion, that parents have a right to attend a meeting, to be represented at that meeting (at their own expense) and to bring a friend.

We have noticed, however, that the guidance is not clear on whether parents should be notified of a pupil's exclusion where the pupil is 18 or over. The guidance appears to suggest that parents of an 18 year old pupil should be informed of their exclusion as it defines 'parents' as "parents/legal guardians/foster carers of pupils under 18, as well as to pupils over 18". This sentence is inconsistent with the law, which clearly states that the person to be informed of the exclusion will differ where the pupil has reached the age of 18. The School Discipline (Pupil Exclusions and Reviews) (England) Regulations 2012 provide that where the pupil is under the age of 18, the headteacher must notify the parents of the pupil, however, where the pupil is 18 years old or over, the headteacher must notify the pupil.

In light of this, a headteacher should carefully consider whether a parent should be notified of a pupil's exclusion where they are 18 or over as the head teacher is not legally obliged to disclose this information to them. Normally, and in line with a parent's expectation that they shall remain informed about their child's education, providing this information to parents could be justified on public task grounds. However, where the pupil has expressed their objection to their information being shared in this way (as per Art. 21 GDPR), the school should only proceed if they can demonstrate compelling legitimate grounds that override the interests of the pupil.

The law and practice referred to in this article has been paraphrased or summarised. It might not be up-to-date with changes in the law and we do not guarantee the accuracy of any information provided at the time of reading. It should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice in relation to a specific set of circumstances.

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