Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Overturned appeals

The courts are being increasingly pernickety about the duty to give reasons for decisions. This applies to a range of bodies, from SENDISTs to admissions appeals panels, governors' discipline committees and employment tribunals.

The crucial issue for the courts is whether the person who is the subject of the decision has enough information to know why his/her case has been upheld or rejected.

For example, where a letter is sent to an unsuccessful admissions applicant it should state why his/her particular case failed. It is not enough for an appeals panel simply to repeat the original refusal to admit "on the grounds that it would be incompatible with the provision of education".

Though there can be a general answer to a number of applicants, it must have some reference to the case and why it failed.

In the less formal tribunals, the courts have been prepared to consider contemporaneous notes made by the members of the panel or the clerk to 'pad out' the letter declaring the decision but it is unwise to rely on this.

It is important that schools make sure that the training of clerks and chairs for discipline committees and other tribunals includes how to draft letters to show reasons of decisions in a legally acceptable form.

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