Legal Update: Guidance on pupil exclusions

Kelly Reeve
Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Can pupils be prevented from progressing from year 12 to year 13 at college if they do not achieve good grades? Kelly Reeve, team leader of the Child Law Advice Service, examines the applicable guidance.

It is unlawful for a school to refuse to allow a pupil to progress for non-disciplinary reasons such as academic achievement. Picture: NTI
It is unlawful for a school to refuse to allow a pupil to progress for non-disciplinary reasons such as academic achievement. Picture: NTI

The Child Law Advice Service every so often receives calls from concerned parents of pupils, and from pupils themselves, who have not been permitted to progress from year 12 to year 13 at college because the pupil has not reached a particular academic standard. This could amount to an unlawful exclusion if the pupil attends a sixth form attached to a maintained school, academy, free school or pupil referral unit.

Statutory guidance on exclusions

The 2012 Department for Education guidance on exclusions applies to all pupils attending a school, including those below or above compulsory school age, such as those attending nursery classes or sixth forms. These schools must have regard to this guidance - in other words it must be followed unless there is a good reason not to in a particular case. The only colleges who are entitled to have their own exclusions policy are standalone sixth form colleges and 16-19 academies.

The exclusions guidance accords the same rights to pupils in year 12 and 13 following an exclusion as all other pupils in the school. Paragraph 12 of the DfE guidance states clearly that pupils cannot be excluded for non-disciplinary reasons such as academic achievement or ability. A college is entitled to exclude, for example, pupils who repeatedly disobey academic instructions such as persistent failure to complete coursework, failure to improve punctuality and attendance, or failure to attend form group classes or assemblies. However, there must be sufficient evidence of a severe breach or persi

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