Every child has a right to an education which allows them to pursue their dreams and fulfil their potential. In recent years, though, there has been a rise in the number of children being permanently excluded from school. These children often end up struggling to access the education they need to progress in their lives, and many end up stuck in Pupil Referral Units. These lack the educational standards of mainstream schools, and children there often fall prey to criminal exploitation and get funnelled into a life of crime.
In 2012 the statutory guidance on school exclusions was amended to remove the right of independent panels to reinstate a child in education - even if the panel finds the exclusion to be unlawful, unreasonable or unfair. Since this change there has been a rise in the number of exclusions, which has been linked to increases in violent crime involving young people. In May 2019, the government published a long-awaited review of school exclusions by the former children's minister Edward Timpson, which found that exclusions disproportionately affect children from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, and those with special educational needs and disabilities.
As well as providing support and representation to children in the exclusion process, we engage with policymakers to push for changes in the law to ensure that schools are held to account and reinstate children in education when an exclusion is found to be unfair. Our campaigning work includes chairing a sub-group of the Challenging School Exclusions Working Party convened by Justice looking at reform to the Independent Review Panel process. We are also working to improve capacity among lawyers and other professionals assisting children and their families with challenges to unfair exclusions through our School Exclusions Hub (coming soon!)
We have also recently embarked on a participation project working with young people with experience of school exclusions to empower them to campaign for change. E-mail us to find out more.