Governors' exclusions panel: purpose and membership
Some exclusions require consideration by the governing board or a panel convened for this purpose. The panel is sometimes called an exclusions panel or disciplinary committee. Learn when one is required, the timelines for considering different types of exclusions, and who can make up the membership.
Please note: fixed-term exclusions are now referred to as suspensions in the census return. We're expecting the DfE to update the statutory guidance document on exclusions and include this change. In the meantime, we still use the term 'exclusion' in this article to refer to both a permanent exclusion and a suspension (fixed-term exclusion). We'll reflect the updated guidance when it's published.
This article is based on the Department for Education’s (DfE's) statutory guidance on exclusion, and advice from governance experts Vicky Redding and Keith Clover.
Purpose and timelines
When a pupil is excluded, the governing board has a duty to consider parents’ representations about the exclusion.
The governing board will usually delegate that responsibility to a committee which we'll refer to here as an 'exclusions panel'. Your committee may have a different name.
Whether an exclusions panel is required and the power it has regarding the exclusion depends on the circumstances.
Where one is required, the selected governors should meet to review the headteacher’s decision. They have the power to do one of two things:
- Uphold the headteacher’s decision to exclude
- Reinstate the pupil
When you must consider an exclusion
The board must consider an exclusion within 15 school days of receiving notice of it, if it's:
- A permanent exclusion
- A suspension (fixed-term exclusion) which would take the pupil’s total school days excluded to more than 15 in a term
- An exclusion that would result in the pupil missing a public exam or a national curriculum test *
The board must consider an exclusion within 50 school days of receiving notice of it, if it's:
- A suspension (fixed-term exclusion) which would take the pupil’s total school days excluded to more than 5 in a term and the parents have requested that the board considers the exclusion
In the case of a suspension (fixed-term exclusion) which would not take the pupil's total school days excluded to more than 5 in a term, the board must consider any representations made by parents, but it cannot direct reinstatement and is not required to arrange a meeting with parents.
* Note: where an exclusion would result in the pupil missing a public exam or national curriculum test, the board must take reasonable steps to meet before the exam/test. If that's not practicable:
- In a maintained school, the chair of governors can consider the exclusion alone
- In an academy, a smaller committee can consider the exclusion, if permitted by the trust's articles of association
The governing board decides who sits on an exclusions panel. In maintained schools, there must be at least 3 governors as described in The School Governance (Roles, Procedures and Allowances) (England) Regulations 2013.
In an academy, you'll need to check what your trust's articles of association say about delegation to committees (as explained in paragraph 54 of the DfE's statutory exclusions guidance).
The panel should be impartial
Anyone who sits on the panel should have no prior connection to the pupil.
Governors should first only be asked if they're available to consider an exclusion. The name of the pupil shouldn’t be given to the full board.
Then, those chosen governors should be given the name of the pupil and they can notify the chair and clerk if they have any connection. Any governor with a connection should be replaced.
It's also good practice to only include governors with no prior involvement in the exclusion.
For example, if the headteacher has discussed the decision to exclude with you, you shouldn't then sit on the panel. The panel's role is to decide whether the decision was right, so you shouldn’t be in a position where you can 'mark your own homework' and judge the quality of your own decision.
There aren't any specific training requirements
That said, you're expected to fill in any training gaps that prevent you from working effectively, to include when considering exclusions. Look to your trust or local authority for training opportunities.
There's no rule against staff governors considering exclusions, but it's unlikely that staff governors wouldn't have prior knowledge of the pupil. It could also be inappropriate for a staff governor because of their relationship with the headteacher, so it's normally best to avoid this.
Parent governors can sit on the panel as long as they don't know the child or their parents. This will be more likely in a large secondary school than a small primary school, so it should be decided based on your school's circumstances. You should normally not have a parent on the panel if they have a child in the same year group as the pupil being excluded.
Associate members/people who aren’t trustees
Exclusions committees are treated as any other committee. Associate members in maintained schools can sit on exclusion panels and vote, as long as at least 3 of the other members are governors.
Similarly, people who aren’t trustees can sit on the panel in academies if your articles of association permit it. Check your own articles, but the model articles of association allow this as long as the majority of the members are trustees (paragraph 101).
Read about the procedures to follow when sitting on an exclusions panel.
Vicky Redding is a governance trainer and consultant. She provides training, advice and support on effective school governance.
Keith Clover is a national leader of governance. He chairs an interim executive board and is an academy consultant for a diocese.