Was the decision to uphold the exclusion proportionate?

Was the decision to uphold the exclusion proportionate?


Proportionality is a principle of administrative and public law. It describes the balancing exercise between the impact an exclusion will have on the young person and the benefit that will be gained by the school for having excluded them.

This exercise should be viewed in two ways:

  1. Does the punishment fit the behavioural infraction? If the impact of exclusion on the young person outweighs the seriousness of the misbehaviour, then the exclusion would be disproportionate.
  2. Does the benefit to the school community at large justify the personal cost to the young person being excluded? If the school is excluding the young person in the interests of other members of the school community, but the benefit to that community will be small whereas the impact of the exclusion on the young person will be significant, then the exclusion may be disproportionate.

The governing board must not uphold an exclusion if it would be disproportionate.

In 2017, there was a case in the High Court, Craig v Farriers Registration Council. The case found that where a disciplinary body has several disciplinary actions it can impose and all would be within a range of reasonable responses to the allegations, the least severe one should be chosen. In other words, a governing board cannot choose to uphold a permanent exclusion, even if it is technically reasonable, if a less severe disciplinary response (such as a suspension) is also available and would be reasonable in the circumstances.

In this case, the Court found that even where it is not within the disciplinary body's power to impose a less extreme punishment that might be more appropriate, this does not justify them upholding the more extreme option just because it was the only one available to them. Therefore, in accordance with this judgement, if the governing board feels that a less severe punishment than permanent exclusion would also be appropriate, they must reinstate the young person and decline to uphold the exclusion. They can provide guidance in their decision as to what punishment would be more appropriate.

Next step? 

Consider any evidence given to the governing board, including the panel pack, any statement of the family, and any documents received through a subject access request.

Then answer the question: Was the governing board's decision to uphold the exclusion disproportionate?

If the answer is yes, consider the Suggested Wording document: Argument to the IRP: Governing board's decision disproportionate

Once you have answered this question, click continue to proceed to the next step.



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This information is correct at the time of writing, 5th September 2023. The law in this area is subject to change.

Coram Children’s Legal Centre cannot be held responsible if changes to the law outdate this publication. Individuals may print or photocopy information in CCLC publications for their personal use.

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