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EDITIONS
Thursday, 24 October, 2002, 09:13 GMT 10:13 UK
Heads' warning over appeals panels
Glyn Technology School in Epsom
The Glyn Technology School case raised concerns
More and more schools will refuse to accept the legitimacy of appeals panels unless current guidance on exclusions is reformed, head teachers warned.

Heads say the recent case of two teenage boys - reinstated by an independent appeals panel to their school in Surrey after being excluded for making death threats against a teacher - highlighted the weaknesses in the system.

David Hart
David Hart wants to see changes to the current procedures
The panel's decision to order Glyn Technology School in Epsom to take the boys back was widely condemned - and shortly before she resigned, the Secretary of State, Estelle Morris, stepped in to say teachers should not be expected to put up with abusive pupils.

Now the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) is calling on the government to change the law so that the secretary of state has the power to overturn appeal panel decisions.

The Education Act 2002, which comes into force next January, will prevent panels from overturning decisions to expel pupils on procedural grounds, which the Department for Education said happened in the case of the Surrey schoolboys.

'Perverse decision'

General secretary of the NAHT, David Hart, said: "If an independent appeal panel can reach such a perverse decision, that has been universally condemned, there must be something seriously wrong with the current exclusion procedures."


The government is toughening up appeal procedures

Department for Education
"They must be prevented from ordering reinstatement irresponsibly and without real regard for the interests of the rest of the pupils and staff."

Mr Hart said the government may have to go further and effectively put an end to the panels' independence.

"That would raise one hell of a furore because those representing parents and pupils would cry foul," he said.

"But at the end of the day, are the interests of two pupils paramount or those of 1,200 pupils and 98 staff?"

In a letter to Ms Morris sent shortly before she resigned, Mr Hart said that while the government had acted to restrict the powers of panels, schools still had to prove no "serious harm" would follow the reinstatement of a pupil expelled for violence, intimidation or seriously disruptive behaviour.

He predicted more heads and deputies would resort to industrial action ballots and votes to refuse to teach pupils reinstated by panels after they had been excluded.

Improvements promised

A Department for Education spokesman said: "The government is toughening up appeal procedures and considering what more we can do to improve the workings of appeals panels."

"From January we will ensure panels will have to have a teacher on them, will not be able to overturn decisions on a point of procedure and will take into account the interests of the whole school community.

"New guidance will be necessary when the new law comes in, and we will take all views into account then."


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