Case study 16

The headteacher has informed the pupil discipline committee of Ffordd y Lan School that he is permanently excluding a pupil due to an incident with a member of staff at the school. The parents of the pupil have also contacted the police, who are currently investigating the incident.

The clerk has arranged a meeting of the pupil discipline committee to hear the evidence from the headteacher and from the pupils’ parents. This has been arranged within the statutory timescale i.e. between the sixth and fifteenth school day after the date of receipt of the notice to exclude. The meeting is currently taking place, and it is the tenth day.

The committee has heard from the parents that the police are involved and they have asked if the meeting can be deferred for a few weeks, pending the outcome of the police investigation. The committee has agreed to this, however, they now have concerns in relation to any breach of the statutory timescales. The clerk has contacted Governors Wales for advice on this issue.

The pupil discipline committee has no power to postpone their meeting to consider the pupil’s exclusion. The agreement to defer should not have been made. The pupil discipline committee should therefore reconvene the meeting and base its decision on the evidence available and remember that while the police apply the criminal standard of proof (i.e. “beyond reasonable doubt”), the headteacher, discipline committee and appeal panel (if applicable) apply the civil standard of proof (i.e. “the balance of probabilities”).

Once the matter has been determined by the pupil discipline committee and any appeal has been raised within the prescribed time limits (i.e. within 15 school days after the day on which notification of the disciplinary committee’s decision is received), the appeal panel then has the power to consider whether they have sufficient information to be able to make a decision or whether they should adjourn the hearing pending the outcome of the police investigation. It is at this stage that a deferment could be agreed.