Who's on the panel
A panel is made up of 3 people from each of the following categories:
- a lay person who hasn't worked in any school (except as a volunteer or school governor)
- a school governor who has been a governor for at least 1 year within the last 5 years, and who has not been a teacher or headteacher during that time
- a headteacher or someone who has been a headteacher within the last 5 years.
When people can't be on a panel
Panellists are not eligible to serve if they are:
- a member or director of the local council, Academy Trust or governing body of the excluding school
- the headteacher of the excluding school or anyone who has been headteacher in the last 5 years
- an employee of the local council, Academy Trust or governing body of the excluding school (unless they're a headteacher at a school not involved in the review).
Additionally, you can't be on the panel if you have (or have had in the past) any connection with the:
- local council or Academy Trust
- school parents or pupil
- the incident leading to the exclusion
...which might raise doubts about your impartiality.
If the reasons for the decision to exclude rest largely on physical evidence, and if the facts are in dispute, the physical evidence should be made available to the panel, where possible.
If there are difficulties keeping any physical evidence, photographs or signed witness statements will be acceptable.
Both you and the school can put forward new evidence about the incident that led to the exclusion, including evidence that was not available to the headteacher or the governing body.
However, the school may not introduce new reasons for the exclusion.
To help them reach a decision, the panel will usually need to hear from those involved, either directly or indirectly. The governing body may call witnesses involved in the incident that led to the exclusion, including any alleged victims or any teacher other than the staff member who investigated the incident and interviewed pupils.
In the case of witnesses who are pupils at the school, it might be better for the panel to be presented with written statements. Pupils only appear as witnesses if they do so voluntarily and with their parent's consent.
All witness statements must be attributed, signed and dated unless the
school has good reason to protect the identity of pupils.
The excluded pupil is entitled to know the substance behind the reason for their exclusion.
Police involvement or criminal proceedings
The panel will need to consider whether it can proceed or adjourn the hearing, pending the outcome of any police investigation and / or any criminal proceedings.
Reaching a decision
The panel will decide whether:
- your child did what they're alleged to have done. The more serious the allegation, the more convincing the evidence will need to be
- permanent exclusion was an appropriate and proportionate response by the school to that behaviour
- the headteacher and governing body complied with the law
- there's evidence that the process was flawed, important factors weren't considered or justice was clearly not done
- there has been racial or disability discrimination.
The panel can:
- uphold the decision to exclude your child
- recommend that the school reconsiders its decision
- quash the decision and direct that the governors consider the exclusion again.
The panel can only quash the decision by testing:
- Illegality – did the headteacher and / or the governors act outside the scope of their legal powers in taking the decision to exclude?
- Irrationality – was the decision so unreasonable that it was not one a sensible person could have made?
- Fairness (procedural impropriety) – was the exclusion process and the governors' consideration so unfair or flawed that justice was clearly not done?
The panel’s decision is binding on you, the excluded pupil, the school and the local council.
Review hearings always take place during the school day, normally starting at 10am. There is no time limit – the hearing could last all day.
Who attends a hearing
We'll let you know in advance who's attending the hearing.
The excluded pupil should be encouraged to attend the hearing to speak on their own behalf. But they don't have to attend.
Decide beforehand if you're happy for them to be questioned or if you'd prefer them to make a statement and then leave.
Who can attend the hearing and present their case personally
- You as parent or carer (or the excluded pupil, if over 18), accompanied by a friend or representative, including a legal representative or advocate.
- The headteacher of the excluding school, who may be represented by a legal or other representative.
- A representative of the governing body, who may be represented by a legal or other representative.
- A representative of the local council, in the case of a maintained school or pupil referral unit. They can also attend a review panel arranged by an Academy Trust as an observer, at the request of the parent. Where they are attending as an observer, the Academy Trust must consent to them making representations.
- the excluded child.
- an alleged victim.
Those providing evidence (such as witnesses or character referees) may attend at the discretion of the panel or clerk.
You, the headteacher, a governor, and any local council representative can also make written representations.
Before the hearing
If you have matters to raise or documents to share, which weren't included with your original application, email them to email@example.com at least 6 school days before your hearing. If you raise matters or produce documents later than this, or at the hearing itself, the panel may be adjourned to give everyone a chance to consider the new information.
We'll send you and the school a copy of everything that's been submitted in writing to the clerk for circulation to the panel 5 school days before the hearing.
The local council representative and SEN expert will also be sent a copy, if they're attending the review.
At the hearing
Hearings are held in private and conducted fairly, allowing each party to have full opportunity to present their case.
Following introductions, the clerk or chair of the independent review panel will explain the order of proceedings. Hearings normally follow these stages:
- Any alleged victim will make representation either in person, through a representative or by submitting a written statement.
- The school's case is presented by a representative of the governing body, with any witnesses and the headteacher, who may make further representations to the panel.
- The parent and members of the panel question the school’s case.
- The parent’s case is presented by the parent or their representative with any witnesses, including the excluded pupil.
- The school governors’ representative and the panel question the parent's case.
- Statement by the SEN expert (if one is attending).
- The panel questions the SEN expert.
- Representation on behalf of the Local Authority (if attending).
- The panel questions the local authority representative.
- Summary of the school’s case.
- Summary of the parent’s case.