Fairness is a legal concept that applies to school exclusions. For more information on fairness in public law, read the Quick Guide: The headteacher's power to exclude
Ensuring fairness at an independent review panel (IRP) is not a science and requires you to think actively about how the panel is being run. You should take a balanced and common-sense approach to the procedure of the meeting, thinking about what is a reasonable approach to take in the circumstances that does not detriment one party over another.
Common issues to watch out for are:
- The panellists provide more time to one party over another to present arguments;
- The panellists provide too little time for the exclusion to be fairly heard, with the family having the opportunity to cover all the issues they are concerned about;
- The school has conversations with the panellists about the exclusion outside of the hearing. This might become apparent through the language used in the hearing (for example “we were talking about this earlier”), or because the school is already in the hearing room when the family is invited in;
- The panellists are more aggressive towards, or less accommodating of, one party over another;
- The panellists do not let you make arguments on a particular topic or submit certain pieces of evidence.
Wherever you see something that you think is unfair, you should question it. You can do this simply by speaking up and politely but firmly explaining why the actions of the panellists are likely to be unfair to the person you are supporting. Once you have stated your objection, make a careful note of it and of the responses from the panellists. Ask the IRP's note-taker to make sure that the minutes include your objection and the panellists' responses.
Once you are comfortable with the process of ensuring fairness at the hearing, proceed to the next step.