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20 Education

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1. Introduction

2. What choice of school do I have for my child?

3. When must my child go to school?

4. May I teach my child at home?

5. What will my child be taught at school?

6. What should I be told about my child and their progress?

7. What do I have to pay for at school?

8. What can I do if my child is being bullied?

9. What rights does the school have to discipline my child?

All schools must have a governors' statement on how children should behave. Schools must speak or write to parents before they change this. The school's discipline policy and any school rules must be based on this statement. The head teacher must tell you about the rules each year.

Under the Human Rights Act 1998, any punishment or treatment must not be 'inhuman or degrading'. It must be suitable taking into account what the child has done. For more information, see the Community Legal Service leaflet, 'The Human Rights Act'.

When can my child be given detention?
You must be given 24 hours' notice in writing if the school wants to give your child a detention out of school hours. A detention must be 'reasonable', which means it must be suitable taking into account what your child has done. A detention should also take into account:

  • how old your child is;
  • whether they have any special educational needs;
  • whether they have religious requirements; or
  • whether they have special transport arrangements.

Are staff allowed to hit my child?
Physical punishment such as smacking, caning or shaking a child is illegal in all schools. However, school staff may use 'reasonable force' to stop a child:

  • committing a crime;
  • hurting someone; or
  • damaging something.

If you think your child has been seriously harmed or sexually assaulted, you can complain straight away to the police or your local council's social services department.

When can my child be excluded from school?
Head teachers may exclude (remove) a child:

  • for a fixed period of time;
  • at lunchtimes; or
  • permanently.

Fixed-period exclusions must not total more than 45 school days in any school year.

What can I do if I think my child has been wrongly excluded?
If the school excludes your child, you have the right to write to the school's governing body telling them why you think your child shouldn't have been excluded. In some cases, you also have the right to attend a meeting to speak to the governing body.  This applies if the head teacher excludes your child:

  • for a total of six school days or more in a term;
  • permanently; or
  • at the time of a public exam.

If the head teacher excludes your child permanently and the governors agree with the decision, you can appeal to an independent appeal panel set up by the local education authority.  The governors and independent panel must decide 'on the balance of probabilities' whether your child did what they are accused of.  This means it must be more likely than not that they did it.

Head teachers, governing bodies, appeal panels and local education authorities must follow rules and do things within certain time periods if a child is excluded. There are also government and National Assembly for Wales guidelines describing what should happen if the school excludes your child.

You should be given the phone number of a free helpline run by the Advisory Centre for Education to help parents of excluded children. See 'Further help' for contact details.

If you are going to an exclusion hearing, you may want to get legal advice before you go. You cannot get Community Legal Service funding (which used to be called legal aid) to pay for a solicitor to go to a hearing. But you may be able to get free legal help to put together your case if you have a low income (see 'Where can I complain if I am not happy about my child's school or education?').

Under the rules of 'natural justice', you and your child have a right to a fair hearing. You may be able to take the local education authority or the school to court if a governors' hearing or independent appeal hearing is not fair. You would need expert legal advice to do this.  There are tight time limits within which you need to take such action.

As well as excluding my child, what else can the local education authoity do?
If your child has been excluded because of serious misbehaviour, the local education authority can apply to the courts for a parenting order.  You can say if you disagree with the order being made and bring witnesses to show why it is unfair.  If the order is made, you will have to attend counselling or guidance classes.  The order may also set out other actions you must take.  If you don't keep to the order, you will be breaking the law.

If you agree to attend counselling or guidance classes, you may avoid a formal parenting order being made by the courts.

10. What happens if my child can't go to school?

11. What say do I have in how the school is run?

12. What if I am not happy about my child's school or education?

13. How can I get the right education for my child if they have special needs?

14. Further Help

15. About this leaflet

This leaflet was published by the Legal Services Commission (LSC). It was written in association with the Advisory Centre for Education.

Leaflet Version: November 2019

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