Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Technicalities of admissions

The diference between the independent and maintained sectors in regard to discipline has been sharply pointed up in the recent case of Gray v Marlborough College, where a father challenged the school's refusal to allow his son to proceed into the sixth form as a result of a history of disciplinary infractions.

The new code of admissions for maintained schools, at present being consulted on, specifically says that schools cannot refuse admission to the sixth form on disciplinary grounds.

The case highlights the fact that the relationship between independent schools and their pupils and parents hinges on a contract. A parent may only challenge a school's decisions on discipline on the grounds that the decision breaks the contract. The school's published disciplinary code and disciplinary process is part of that contract.

In contrast, a home-school agreement between a maintained school and its parents specifically does not have contractual force but, conversely, the disciplinary process does have statutory force.

This does not mean, however, that an independent school can ignore fair process, and all schools should remember that not ticking all the boxes in regards to due process can come back to haunt them.

For instance, in a recent case, a judge overturned an independent appeals panel's decision, despite there being photographic evidence of an assault, on the grounds that the IAP's letter telling parents of the decision did not give "anything like adequate reasons as to why they had lost". This applies to both sectors.

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