Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Independent school exclusions

Some aspects of the case of Ellis v Merchant Taylor's School may seem rather far away from the everyday life of maintained schools (not least the fact that the alleged young cannabis trader was operating out of the BMW he drove). However, the case demonstrates that the standards the Appeal Court used in determining whether a permanent exclusion is fair are the same for independent and maintained schools.

The independent review panel was challenged on the ground that one member attended the same church as the head and had met him at conferences. The court therefore examined bias. They applied the standard test: whether the fair-minded and informed observer would have concluded that there was a real possibility of bias. The court decided not.

The court then investigated the somewhat sketchy account of the decision. Fortunately for the school, the governors had been rigorously cross-examined in the lower court and it had become clear that the panel did not, as was alleged, simply decide whether the head's decision to exclude was within his area of discretion, but had conducted a proper review of the evidence and of the proportionality of the evidence.

The lesson for both independent schools and academies is that unless the school is using the 'unlikely to profit from what the school offers' reason for removing a child (as in Gray v Marlborough College) the courts will consider exclusions on the same set of principles as they are considered in the maintained sector: as these represent fairness, or natural justice.

© 2019 Association of School and College Leaders | Designed with IMPACT