4. Ensuring fair process at the hearing

Fairness is a legal concept that applies to school exclusions.

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

Wherever you see something which 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 governors 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 governors. Ask the note-taker to make sure that the minutes include your objection and the governors’ 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.

Once you are comfortable with the process of ensuring fairness at the hearing, proceed to the next step.

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