The charity Just for Kids Law is today launching an innovative new project that will increase the provision of advice and representation for children across England facing exclusion from school. The School Exclusions Hub is an online resource featuring step-by-step guides with links to relevant statutory guidance and template documents to handle every stage of the school exclusion process.
This comes at a vital time for children and families struggling with unfair exclusions. There has been a huge increase in the number of school exclusions in recent years,3 with exclusions disproportionately affecting children with special educational needs and disabilities, children in care and children from BAME backgrounds. The process for challenging exclusions is highly complex,4 however professional advice and representation is hard to come by. There is a dearth of school exclusions advice in large parts of the and no legal aid available for such cases. The result is that less than 1 in 10 exclusions are reviewed by independent panels that scrutinise decisions – despite almost 4 in 10 of the cases heard by such panels being found to be unfair.5
The School Exclusions Hub will provide advice and community organisations with the information and tools needed to find alternatives to school exclusion, or to challenge an exclusion. Supported by a helpline at Just for Kids Law, the Hub will enable organisations to offer a range of help and services to children and families who would otherwise face this daunting process alone.
Just for Kids Law is one of the leading organisations offering legal representation for excluded children in London. The charity has recently launched legal clinics to help families challenging exclusions in Greater Manchester and the West Midlands Conurbation with pro bono support from the law firm Fieldfisher.
Alex Temple, Public Lawyer and Policy Officer at Just for Kids Law, said:
“School exclusion processes are complex and legalistic. The government’s guidance on exclusions is 60 pages long, and the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Code of Practice, which might also be relevant to an exclusion challenge, is 290 pages long. Parents shouldn’t be expected to challenge unfair exclusions without legal help, but professional support is hard to come by, especially outside of London. We hope that the School Exclusions Hub will prove an invaluable resource to practitioners who want to help families with exclusions, and thus improve access to justice for parents across England.”
Enver Solomon, CEO of Just for Kids Law, said:
“The school exclusion process is unfairly weighted in favour of schools leaving children and their parents having to fight for their right to education by battling a system that should be supporting them. They have to do this without anybody helping them to navigate the complexity of the process whilst schools have far greater resources to make their case for excluding a child. It is a David vs Goliath fight that is totally unjust. Our new online resource is much needed and will hopefully give children and parents the help and advice they desperately need.”
Notes to editors:
- Just for Kids Law is a UK charity that works with and for children and young people to hold those with power to account and fight for wider reform by providing legal representation and advice, direct advocacy and support, and campaigning to ensure children and young people in the UK have their legal rights and entitlements respected and promoted and their voices heard and valued.
- Development of the content for School Exclusions Hub was led by Alex Temple, Public Lawyer and Policy Officer at Just for Kids Law. Development of the School Exclusions Hub microsite was carried out by the design and web agency Effusion. The School Exclusions Hub can be accessed online at www.justforkidslaw.org/seh
- In England there were 7,900 permanent exclusions in the 2017/18 school year – a 70 % increase since 2012/13. In the 2017/18 school year, Children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) made up 44.9 % of permanent exclusions and 43.4 % of fixed-period exclusions. Source: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/820773/Permanent_and_fixed_period_exclusions_2017_to_2018_-_main_text.pdf
- The Government’s exclusions guidance is 62 pages long: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-exclusion The Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Code of Practice, which parents may also need, is 292 pages long: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/send-code-of-practice-0-to-25
- In the 2017/18 school year, 640 challenges were lodged with independent review panels (8.1% of 7,900). 599 were determined, of which only 363 (61%) were upheld. Source: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/820773/Permanent_and_fixed_period_exclusions_2017_to_2018_-_main_text.pdf
- A recent report from the charity JUSTICE recommended substantial reform to the process for challenging school exclusions, including better training for schools on excluding pupils, a new Independent Reviewer of individual exclusion decisions and the possibility of appealing to a judge-led tribunal. Just for Kids Law's Alex Temple was part of the working group that contributed to the report, chairing the sub-group looking at the Independent Review Panel process.