Ensuring a fair process at the hearing

Ensuring a fair process at the hearing


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 a governing board hearing 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 governing board provide more time to one party over another to present arguments;
  • The governing board provide too little time for all the issues to be fully heard;
  • The school has conversations with the governing board 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 headteacher or other school staff are already in the hearing room when the family is invited in;
  • The governing board are more aggressive towards, or less accommodating of, one party over another;
  • The governing board do not let you make arguments on a particular topic.

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 it is that an action of the governing board is likely to be unfair towards the person you are supporting.

Once you have stated your objection, make a careful note of it and of the response from the governing board. Ask the note-taker to make sure that the minutes include your objection and the governing board's response. This is particularly important if your objection is not agreed to, as you may want to rely on your contemporaneous record at a tribunal or independent review panel.

Next step? 

Once you are comfortable with the process of ensuring fairness at the hearing, 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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