Contrary to popular belief, people do not have an automatic right to enter school premises; schools are private property even though they serve a public function. Parents of pupils are granted an implied licence to enter school premises at certain stated times (for example, to pick up children or to attend a school event). It is up to the individual school to define the extent of this licence and how access to the premises of the school is granted. This article will look at how schools can go about revoking this implied licence in respect of an individual parent.
How can a parent be banned?
A school may consider that a parent should be banned from school premises if they are using threatening or aggressive behaviour that causes a risk to staff or pupils. If a school considers that a parent should be banned, they must be sure to act reasonably, taking into account the impact of such a decision on the parent.
Firstly, they will need to write to the parent notifying them in writing that they are at risk of being banned from the school premises. The parent must then be given a chance to present their side, which can happen either before they are banned, or whilst they are banned temporarily. Therefore, the letter can either:
• ban the individual temporarily, until they have had the opportunity to formally present their side; or
• tell the individual that the school intends to ban them and invite them to present their side.
Which option to take will depend upon the School’s initial assessment of the risk that the parent presents.
What happens once the parent is banned?
If a school decides to implement a ban they must notify the parent of their decision. The parent will then commit a civil offence of trespass if they decide to enter school premises without authority. They may even risk committing a criminal offence under the Education Act 1996 if they are on school premises to cause or permit a nuisance or a disturbance. Schools are within their right to call the police and ask for the individual to be removed if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that they have committed such an offence.
Alternatively, the parent can be removed by a person who is authorised by the appropriate authority (such as the governing board or the local authority). The parent may also be liable to pay a fine of up to £500.
It is arguable whether merely trespassing on school premises (in defiance of a ban in place) would qualify as an offence under the Education Act 1996, however, a parent being present in defiance of a ban is deemed likely to qualify as a disturbance ‘to the annoyance’ of those who are lawfully present; there is a low bar to fall foul of the offence.
How long will the ban last?
A ban from school premises should be subject to a review by the school within a reasonable time scale taking into account the facts and circumstances surrounding the matter. The parent also has the right to make written representations to the school if they feel the bar is no longer necessary.
When dealing with difficult issues with parents, schools should bear in mind the parent’s right to make a subject access request for any and all data the school holds about them. The school should therefore be prudent in the way it refers to parents in any internal written communications. Note that communications to / from the school’s solicitors will generally be privileged and so exempted from having to be disclosed.
How can Thomson Snell & Passmore help?
If you are a school looking for advice on how to ban a parent from the premises, we can help guide you through your options. Please get in touch with the Head of Department, Nick Hobden by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Department for Education has published some guidance around the issue of parental access to school premises, see: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/controlling-access-to-school-premises/controlling-access-to-school-premises.