Postgraduate students at City University are given training on the law of school exclusions and disability discrimination by Sarah Hannett, the barrister director, who has expertise in each of these fields. Each student is then assigned to a barrister mentor at Matrix Chambers or 11KBW. These practitioners, ranging from QCs to more junior practitioners, are all people with experience of running education cases.
These students are managed by a team of dedicated student directors. These students are responsible for the day-to-day running of the project’s cases, and for all of the outreach and publicity work. The profiles of the student directors can be found here.
When a parent whose child faces permanent exclusion from school contacts the Project, a (trained) student director has an initial discussion to ensure that the case is one that the Project can take on. If the case is one within the Project‟s remit, the parent is assigned a student representative who prepares and conducts the appeal on their behalf. Approximately 75-80% of our cases involve children with special educational needs.
The student representative will then appear on behalf of the parent before the appropriate decision-making body: the governing body of the school, before the Independent Review Panel (IRP). The Project has excellent links with specialist education solicitors. This allows Sarah, or the barrister mentor, to make sure that if the final decision of the IRP, further advice and if necessary further representation can be obtained.
Since Sarah started the Project in September 2011, it has provided assistance to over 250 parents whose children face exclusion. Over half of these are children who are disabled and/or have special educational needs. Given the catastrophic effect of a school exclusion on a child‟s education and on their life chances, the impact on each child whose unlawful exclusion was removed from their school record is highly significant.