Centre for Access to Justice


JUSTICE Research Assistants


JUSTICE is a law reform organisation that works to strengthen the justice system - administrative, civil and criminal – across the UK and promote the rights of individuals within it. For almost 60 years, JUSTICE has been at the heart of shaping the legal landscape in this country.  JUSTICE carries out research and analysis to generate, develop and evaluate recommendations for reform of the justice system.  The corner stone of this work is high quality evidence-based research drawing from the expertise of our membership and on international and comparative experience. For flagship projects we use working parties of our members and other stakeholders supported by our staff.  This approach has long produced reports which have resulted in recommendations for authoritative, relevant solutions to critical issues.

The next working party which commenced earlier this year will examine the process for challenging school exclusions.  The number and rate of recorded permanent and fixed-term (i.e. temporary) exclusions has been increasing year-on-year since 2012/13.  In addition, it is estimated that there are thousands more pupils who are “informally” excluded from school and are therefore not captured in the school exclusions data.

Being excluded has a significant impact on the lives of pupils.  Pupils who have been excluded from school are far less likely to reach the same levels of academic achievement as their peers, exclusions negatively impact on children’s long term mental health and excluded children are more likely to end up in prison than their peers.  Pupils with certain characteristics are over represented in exclusions statistics: boys; those with special educational needs; those on free school meals; and Black Caribbean, Irish traveller heritage and Gypsy Roma heritage pupils. It is therefore crucial that the process for challenging school exclusions is both fair and accessible, to ensure that all children, whatever their background, are provided with the education they are entitled to.

The Working Party will bring together individuals with particular expertise related to school exclusions, including legal practitioners, academics, teachers, governors and IRP members to examine the process for challenging school exclusions and make recommendations for ways to make the system fairer and more accessible.  It will also identify gaps in accountability in the system and recommend how these should be bridged.  

The UCL CAJ research project will run alongside the Working Party and will gather first-hand evidence of how the school exclusions process works in practice through observing hearings.

Objective of the research

The aim of the proposed research project is to gather first-hand evidence of how Independent Review Panels ('IRPs'), and, if possible, governing bodies, conduct the review process by observing hearings in order to consider whether the hearings comply with public law standards of procedural fairness.  This information would be used to inform and feed into the Working Party.  


There are currently a handful of organisations that provide representation to parents at both the governing body and IRP stages. However, the fact that the parent has representation will inevitably change the nature of the reviews.  Given that the majority of parents are not represented, observing hearings in which parents are unrepresented will provide a unique objective insight into the current process for challenging exclusions.


Research method

JUSTICE / CAJ will send UCL law students to observe IRP and governing body hearings. JUSTICE will produce a pro forma for students to fill out with their observations from the hearings centred around the procedural fairness norms that we would expect to see in such hearings. 

JUSTICE will provide the students with training that will cover: an introduction to the process for challenging school exclusions; a critical analysis of our concerns with the current procedure; guidance on how to complete the pro forma; and training on how the students should conduct themselves whilst observing hearings.  

Once students have completed their training they will form a pool of students who are able to observe hearings.  The hearings happen on an ad hoc basis and often at short notice - the governors must consider the reinstatement of an excluded pupil in most cases within 15 school days of receiving notice of an exclusion.  An IRP’s review must also begin within 15 school days of when the application for a review was lodged. When we are notified a hearing will take place the CAJ can inform the pool of students and identify who is best placed to attend.

Our aim would be for students to attend hearings across England.   However, it may be that if hearings happen outside of term time students who have returned home outside of London can attend hearings occurring nearby.

We are looking for volunteers who can demonstrate; 

  • An interest in getting involved with empirical legal research (prior experience of being directly involved in empirical legal research is desirable, but not essential);

  • A commitment to or an awareness of social justice issues;

  • Awareness of the need to maintain confidentiality when dealing with vulnerable individuals;

  • Willingness and ability to be flexible, open minded, and non-judgemental regarding participants in the school exclusion process and their problems;

  • Awareness of the potential needs of, and demands placed on, vulnerable individuals who will likely be present at school exclusion panels; 

  • Reliability and commitment, good interpersonal and communication skills, including written and oral; 

  • Ability and willingness to work as part of a team; 

  • Excellent organisational skills; and

  • Strong administrative skills.

To apply:

Applications during will close on midnight on 22 April 2019. We may then invite applicants to come in for a short interview. Successful applicants will be invited to attend a training session with JUSTICE at a date on the 16th May.

In order to apply, please download and complete an application form setting out why you would like to volunteer and what you would bring to the role to accesstojustice@ucl.ac.uk.

If you have any questions about this opportunity, please contact Adam Riley (adam.riley@ucl.ac.uk).