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Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council (18 016 873)

Category : Education > School exclusions

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 29 Jul 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: there is no fault in the Independent Review Panel’s decision to uphold Mr F’s son, B’s permanent exclusion from school. The Ombudsman cannot question decisions taken without fault.

The complaint

  1. Mr F complains about the Independent Review Panel which upheld the decision of the school’s governing body not to reinstate his son, B. B was permanently excluded from school. He thinks the decision was unfair. He believes the school was biased against B.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints about councils and certain other bodies, including exclusion review panels. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 25 as amended)
  2. We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We cannot question whether an Independent Review Panel’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
  3. If we are satisfied with a Panel’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
  4. We cannot investigate complaints about what happens in schools. (Local Government Act 1974, Schedule 5, paragraph 5(b), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered:
    • information provided by Mr F;
    • information provided by the Council (on behalf of the Panel), including the papers submitted for the hearing and a record of the Panel’s decision; and
    • Exclusion from maintained schools, academies and pupil referral units in England. Statutory guidance for those with legal responsibilities in relation to exclusion published by the Department for Education in September 2017.
  2. I invited Mr F and the Council to comment on my draft decision.

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What I found

  1. The Head Teacher permanently excluded Mr F’s son, B, from school in October 2018 following an incident.
  2. Mr F appealed the Head Teacher’s decision to the Governors. A panel of Governors heard Mr F’s appeal on 5 November 2018. The Governors upheld the Head Teacher’s decision.
  3. Mr F appealed the Governors’ decision. The Council arranged an Independent Review Panel to consider Mr F’s appeal on 7 December 2018. The Independent Review Panel upheld the Governors’ decision.
  4. Mr F remained dissatisfied and complained to the Ombudsman.

School exclusions

  1. A head teacher may permanently exclude a child from school in response to a serious breach or persistent breaches of the school's behaviour policy, and where allowing the pupil to remain in school would seriously harm the education or welfare of other pupils in the school.
  2. Parents can appeal a head teacher’s decision to permanently exclude their child to the school’s Governors. The Governors may uphold the head teacher’s decision or may decide to reinstate the pupil.
  3. Where parents dispute the decision of a governing board not to reinstate a permanently excluded pupil, they can ask for this decision to be reviewed by an independent review panel.
  4. An independent review panel does not have the power to direct a governing board to reinstate an excluded pupil. It may direct a governing board to reconsider its decision if the panel decides a governing board’s decision is flawed when considered in the light of the principles used for judicial review. This is a very high threshold.
  5. The Ombudsman investigates complaints against the independent review panel. We do not decide whether a pupil should have been excluded or should be reinstated. Our role is to check the panel administered the appeal properly. We cannot question panel decisions taken without fault, no matter how strongly the parent disagrees.

Consideration

  1. The Council sent me the papers from Mr F’s appeal. The school provided evidence of B’s persistent breaches of the school’s behaviour policy. The papers also record Mr F’s reasons for challenging the head teacher’s decision to permanently exclude B from school.
  2. The Panel decided to uphold the Governors’ decision not to reinstate B. On the evidence available, I am satisfied the Panel considered Mr F’s appeal properly. The Panel was aware of Mr F’s reasons for challenging the head teacher’s decision, but decided there were no grounds to question the Governors’ decision not to reinstate B. This is a decision the Panel is entitled to take and there are no grounds for the Ombudsman to question it.
  3. The Council has not kept the Clerk’s handwritten notes from the Panel hearing, but has provided the typed record of the Panel’s decision. The Council said that it is reviewing its procedures to ensure it keeps the Clerk’s handwritten notes for a suitable period after the hearing.

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Final decision

  1. I have ended my investigation. There was no fault by the Panel in considering Mr F’s appeal. The Ombudsman cannot question Panel decisions taken without fault.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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