Independent Review Panel (IRP)

Where the Governing body decides to ‘uphold’ a permanent exclusion and you disagree with the decision, you have a further opportunity to make your representations (raise any questions or concerns) by requesting an Independent Review Panel (IRP) meeting.

The IRP can decide to:

  • uphold the exclusion decision;
  • recommend that the governing body reconsiders their decision; or
  • quash the decision and direct that the governing body considers the exclusion again.

The IRP has no power to direct the governing body to reinstate your child, or remove the exclusion from your child’s school record.

The governing body may still reach the same decision when they reconsider.

The review panel may order that the school pays £4,000 from their budget, if, after a decision to ‘quash’ the exclusion, the school reconsiders and makes the same decision to exclude.

Child Law Advice have lots of information and advice on exclusions,  including frequently asked questions about the IRP process.

You can also read the Department for Education statutory guidance on exclusions.

Should I request an IRP?  

Whether you decide to request an IRP will depend on the outcome you seek and how strongly you feel about the decision to uphold the permanent exclusion. Alternatively, you may feel you would prefer to focus on the next steps for your child’s education and put it all behind you. It’s important to do what’s right for you and your child and you should not feel pressured by anyone.

Parents who have gone through the IRP process generally say they found it a very fair process; they felt empowered being able to put their questions to the school, when overseen by an independent panel; they were pleased to have taken it to that stage – even when they did not get the outcome they hoped for.

You can request an IRP,  even if you have decided that you do not want your child to be reinstated to the school. The panel will still consider the exclusion,  and their findings can be recorded on your child’s educational record,  along with acknowledgement from the governing body.

If you believe your child has been discriminated against under the Equality Act 2010, you can lodge a disability discrimination claim within six months of an exclusion decision and you can do this at the same time as, or instead of, an IRP

Requesting an IRP

Following the meeting with the governors, the letter you receive should explain your right to request an IRP and include:

  • the deadline by which you must submit any application for a review (15 school days from the date of the decision letter).
  • the name and address where you can send your application and evidence for a review.
  • that your application needs to explain the grounds on which you are requesting a review, and that you should include information about how special educational needs (SEN) are considered to be relevant to the exclusion.*
  • your right to request the Local Authority/Academy Trust to appoint a SEN expert to attend the review, regardless of whether your child has recognised SEN.
  • details of the role of the SEN expert, including that this will be at no cost to you.
  •  details about your right to lodge a claim for disability discrimination within 6 months of the exclusion.
  • *You can provide additional evidence at a later date if this is not available, but as soon as possible due to the strict timescales in arranging the review. If applicable, you can explain in your application letter that you will be sending further evidence,  before the review panel meeting. Late evidence presented on the day should be avoided,  as it could result in an adjournment.
  • Following your request for an IRP, the local authority or (in the case of an academy) the academy trust must arrange this, including a SEN expert where you have requested in your application, at their own expense. They must take reasonable steps to identify a date and venue that all parties are able to attend** and start the review within 15 school days of your application being made.
  • **You do not have to attend but it is advisable as you are best placed to tell the IRP why you think the decision to permanently exclude your child was flawed, and put your questions to the school/panel/SEN expert.
  • If you are worried about the hearing,  it could be worth asking a friend or family member to come with you. You will need to let the local authority or academy trust know in advance.
  • If appropriate, you could ask your child if they would like to attend so that their voice can be heard. If this is going to be too challenging for your child,  you could gain their views in a different way,  perhaps in writing or with a video recording.
  • that you may, at your own expense, appoint someone to make written and/or oral representations to the panel,  and that you may also bring a friend to the review;
  • details about your right to lodge a claim for disability discrimination within 6 months of the exclusion.

*You can provide additional evidence at a later date if this is not available, but as soon as possible due to the strict timescales in arranging the review. Explain in your application letter that you will be sending further evidence in before the review panel meeting. Late evidence presented on the day should be avoided,  as it could result in an adjournment.

The panel members

  • A lay member to chair the panel who has not worked in any school in a paid capacity, disregarding any experience as a school governor or volunteer.
  • Current or former school governors (including members of PRU management committees and directors of academy trusts) who have served as a governor for at least 12 consecutive months in the last five years, provided they have not been teachers or head teachers during that time.
  • Head teachers or individuals who have been a head teacher within the last five years.

The local authority/academy trust should take every care to ensure the avoidance of bias and request that any panel members declare any conflict of interest.

The Department for Education guidance says:

Panel members and, if appointed, the SEN expert must declare any known conflict of interest to the local authority/academy trust before the start of the review. (135)

Pages 28 – 34 of the Department for Education guidance includes lots of information about duties of the local authority/academy trust around appointing and training independent panel review members and the clerk.