Boy, 16, loses fight against expulsion from Marlborough

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The Independent Online

Russell Gray, 49, who owns a property restoration company in London, lost his case against the £21,900-a-year school in Wiltshire yesterday, when a judge ruled that the school had acted fairly in expelling Rhys, 16.

Deputy circuit judge Anthony Thompson cleared Marlborough of any unfairness and dismissed allegations that the school had had a "secret agenda" to replace Rhys with a better behaved and more academic pupil to boost its league table position.

The school expelled Rhys after he had been disciplined almost 400 times, arguing that his "exceptionally poor" disciplinary record and lack of academic effort meant he was "unwilling or unable to profit from the educational opportunities on offer".

After a four-day hearing at Southampton County Court, the judge ruled that Marlborough's contract with parents, which is used by many other schools, was fair and that the headmaster had taken reasonable steps to consult Mr Gray.

Judge Thompson said: "I do not think that there was any conspicuous unfairness. It is manifestly wrong to say there was no consultation - but consultation does require a certain amount of co-operation from the consultee. I am satisfied that there was no secret agenda or plan to oust Rhys in favour of any pupil who was perhaps academically brighter than Rhys."

Speaking outside court, Mr Gray said that he was "obviously sad" at the judgment but said he had no regrets about bringing the case because it raised important questions about the rights of parents who send children to private schools. "I found that basic rights of fairness were being disregarded in the private sector," he said. "If you want basic rights of fairness you can only find them in the state sector."

Mr Gray said he had wanted his son to return to Marlborough because "I always believed it did the job for Rhys". But he abandoned his bid to have Rhys reinstated on the third day of the trial, arguing that material released by the school about his son showed that relations had soured to such an extent that he could not realistically return.

But he continued his case for breach of contract in an attempt to "clear Rhys's name and establish some rights for other parents".

"It would have been nice to think that this case could have brought about a shift in attitudes in private schools so they could be brought within the principles of natural justice that have been adopted in the state sector," Mr Gray said.

Rhys said he had wanted to return to Marlborough and that his expulsion had separated him from his friends. "I think they [the school] have behaved pathetically in expelling their pupils in this way," he added. "I didn't deserve to be expelled." Mr Gray said Marlborough had breached its contract with him as a parent by expelling his son without proper consultation or a fair hearing.

But the judge concluded that Rhys had found it difficult to adjust to life at Marlborough from the start and had the worst disciplinary record of any of the 860 pupils at the school.

During his three years at Marlborough he received 398 punishments, including 203 in his final year suggesting that, far from improving, his behaviour was deteriorating, the judge said. As well as relatively minor offences such as chewing gum and failing to wear correct school uniform, Rhys had also been punished for serious misdemeanors including drinking, exposing himself and smoking. The judge told the court: "Having seen [Rhys] in the witness box I am left with the impression of a likeable, intelligent lad who simply cannot cope with the system. Asked about his record he said it was no big deal. He simply cannot grasp why everybody is making such a fuss about it."