Teenagers could appeal against school exclusions

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The Independent Online

Teenagers could soon get the right to launch their own appeals against being excluded from school.

The proposed change to the rules worries teachers’ leaders, who believe that it could further undermine their authority when tackling indiscipline in the classroom.

Children over the age of 16 already have the right to appeal against admission decisions, and youngsters with special educational needs look set to win the right to represent themselves at special needs tribunals. Now ministers want to extend such rights to exclusions, so that all children over 16 can represent themselves at independent appeals tribunals about expulsion decisions.

Chris Keates, the general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: “At 16 you can’t get married without your parents’ consent. Why should you be able to conduct your own appeal?”

She said there was a danger that parents would waive their right to appeal because they believed a plea from their child might be more likely to sway a panel.

Teachers are also worried that youngsters could use their right to appeal to threaten teachers that they will question their competence or make allegations against them if they try to discipline them.

Ms Keates added: “Giving pupils a direct right of appeal to the IAP [independent appeals panel] in cases where they have been excluded should serve to exacerbate the existing problems with IAPs and work to undermine their responsibility to secure for all pupils their educational entitlements.”

Nick Gibb, the Conservative schools spokesman, remarked: “Nothing undermines the authority of a headteacher more than an appeals panel returning an excluded pupil back to the same school – even in cases where knives have been involved.

“We will give heads more freedom to discipline violent and disruptive pupils.”

The new proposal is in part prompted by recommendations from the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, which maintain that children who are able to express their views should have the right to conduct their own appeals against exclusion.

The Government furthermore believes that pupils should be able to play an “active and constructive” role in their education.

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