What is exclusion?
Exclusion is the formal sending home of a pupil from school for disciplinary reasons. An exclusion can be fixed term (temporary) or permanent. A pupil is not allowed in school while they are excluded.
All state-funded mainstream and special schools, including academies and free schools, must follow government statutory guidance on exclusions. The information on this page is about exclusions from state-funded schools and pupil referral units.
Independent schools do not have to follow this guidance, and they will have their own exclusion procedures.
Schools must have a behaviour policy setting out the school rules and the consequences if pupils break the rules, including the circumstances where exclusion might be used. In some situations, a pupil can be excluded for behaviour outside school. Exclusion may be for a series of incidents, often described as “persistent disruptive behaviour”, or for more serious “one off” incidents.
The decision to exclude:
A pupil must only be excluded on disciplinary grounds. The decision to exclude must be:
Only the head teacher or an acting head can make the decision to exclude your child. The exclusion must be for disciplinary reasons only. For example, it is not lawful to exclude because the school cannot meet a pupil’s special educational needs (SEN); for low academic attainment; for a parent’s behaviour; or with an expectation that your child meets certain conditions before they are allowed back in school.
Before making the decision, the head teacher should consider the views of those involved. Where possible they should give your child a chance to present their case. The head can apply the balance of probabilities – is the pupil more likely than not to have done what they are accused of? Other factors should be considered, for example, is the incident a response to bullying? Are there family difficulties affecting a pupil’s behaviour?
The procedure when a child is excluded:
You must be told without delay about the exclusion. The school would usually ring you first, but they must also write to you straight away. This can be sent by letter or electronically. The written information must include:
- The reason for the exclusion.
- The length of the exclusion – the number of days if fixed term, or that it is permanent.
- Information about how you can challenge the exclusion.
- The responsibility to make sure your child (if they are of compulsory school age) is not in a public place during school hours for the first five days of the exclusion.
- Arrangements for alternative provision, if relevant.
The school must always provide this information in writing if they are sending your child home for disciplinary reasons, even if the exclusion is very short.
It is not lawful for the school to tell you to just take your child home, without recording it as a formal exclusion.
‘Informal’ or ‘unofficial’ exclusions, such as sending a pupil home to cool off or the school putting a pupil on a ‘part-time timetable’, are all unlawful regardless of whether they occur with the agreement of parents or carers. See what steps the school has to take in order for the exclusion to be lawful. Too many children and young people with SEN and disabilities are excluded illegally.
HERE is a helpful guide to School Exclusions: What is Legal?
We believe that schools, parents, carers and pupils will all benefit from clear information about their legal powers and rights.
This factsheet defines the different terms that are used to describe exclusions including ‘part-time timetable’ and their legal basis.
This factsheet is published by the National Children’s Bureau in partnership with ASCL and IPSEA.
Alternatives to exclusion:
The school’s behaviour policy should set out alternatives to exclusion. Disciplinary measures will depend on the school, but may include:
- Being taught in a separate room within the school.
- A managed move to another school, either on a trial or permanent basis.
- Temporary attendance in another education centre to help improve behaviour.
Types of exclusion:
A school can exclude for a set number of days, up to a maximum of 45 days in a school year. A lunchtime exclusion counts as half a day.
When the exclusion has ended, your child must be allowed back to school. The head teacher cannot extend an exclusion, but they may issue a new fixed-term or permanent exclusion to begin straight after the first. This should only be done in exceptional circumstances, for example if new information has come to light.
The school should invite you and your child to a reintegration meeting on the day your child returns to school. However, your child must still be allowed in school even if you cannot attend a reintegration meeting.
Your child’s education during fixed-term exclusion
During the first five days of an exclusion, the school should take reasonable steps to set and mark work for your child. For longer exclusions, the school must arrange suitable full-time alternative education to begin from the sixth day of the exclusion. This may be in a pupil referral unit (PRU).
Challenging a fixed-term exclusion
For all exclusions, you can put your views in writing to the school governors. This is called “making representations”. The governors have the power to decide whether the head teacher made the right decision. In some cases they can overturn the exclusion and reinstate your child.
See the table below for information about the governors’ role in considering an exclusion.
A permanent exclusion should be issued only:
- In response to a serious breach or persistent breaches of the school behaviour policy
- Where allowing the pupil to remain in school would seriously harm the education or welfare of the pupil or others in the school.
Your child’s education during permanent exclusion:
During the first five days of an exclusion, the school should take reasonable steps to set and mark work for your child. From the sixth day, the local authority must arrange suitable alternative education for your child. This may be in a pupil referral unit (PRU).
In the longer term, the local authority should find a place in another school for your child.
You can also apply to other schools. However, a school can refuse to accept a child if they have been permanently excluded twice already within the last two years, and in some circumstances they can refuse pupils with challenging behaviour.
If your child has an Education Health and Care (EHC) plan, an exclusion, or the threat of one, should trigger an emergency review of the plan. The local authority must make sure that any alternative provision is able to meet your child’s special educational needs (SEN) as set out in the EHC plan.
Challenging a permanent exclusion
The governors must meet within 15 school days to review the exclusion. You have the right to attend the meeting and to put your views to the governors. The governors must consider whether the head teacher’s decision was lawful, reasonable and fair. They have the power to overturn the exclusion and allow your child back to school. They can also overturn the exclusion and reinstate your child in principle, even if you do not want your child to return to the school.
If the governors agree with the head teacher and uphold the decision, they must write to you to let you know. You have 15 school days from the date of the letter to ask for an Independent Review Panel (IRP) to consider the exclusion.* The IRP hearing must take place within 15 school days of your request.
Independent review panel (IRP):
Where the Governing body decides to ‘uphold’ the 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).
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.
To understand more about the role of the IRP view this short video below: