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School exclusion and suspension

What is an exclusion

A head teacher of a school can exclude pupils on disciplinary grounds for either a fixed period (a suspension or fixed term exclusion) or permanently.

A fixed-period exclusion does not have to be for a continuous period and can also be for parts of the school day. For example, if a pupil’s behaviour at lunchtime is disruptive, they may be excluded from the school premises for the duration of the lunchtime period. Fixed term exclusions should not exceed 45 days in a single academic year.

A decision to exclude a pupil permanently should only be taken in response to a serious breach or persistent breaches of the school's behaviour policy and where allowing the pupil to remain in school would seriously harm the education or welfare of the pupil or others in the school.

‘Informal’ or ‘unofficial’ exclusions, such as sending a pupil home ‘to cool off’ or asking parents to keep their child at home, are unlawful, regardless of whether they occur with the agreement of parents or carers. Any exclusion of a pupil, even for short periods of time, must be formally recorded.

It is also unlawful to exclude for a non-disciplinary reason. For example, a pupil cannot be excluded simply because they have additional needs or a disability that the school feels it is unable to meet, or for a reason such as: academic attainment/ability; the action of a pupil’s parents; or the failure of a pupil to meet specific conditions before they are reinstated, such as to attend a reintegration meeting.

Children and young people with special educational needs and school exclusion

Children with education, health and care (EHC) plans have disproportionately high rates of and are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of exclusion. Therefore, head teachers should consider what extra support might be needed to identify and address the needs of pupils with special educational needs a order to reduce their risk of exclusion and should, as far as possible, avoid permanently excluding any pupil with an EHC plan

Schools should engage proactively with parents in supporting the behaviour of pupils with additional needs. Where a school has concerns about the behaviour, or risk of exclusion, of a child with additional needs, a pupil with an EHC plan, it should, in partnership with others (including the local authority as necessary), consider what additional support or alternative placement may be required. This should involve assessing the suitability of provision for a pupil’s SEN. Where a pupil has an EHC plan, schools should consider requesting an early annual review or interim/emergency review.

Disruptive behaviour is often a consequence of an unmet need, so before excluding pupils schools should undertake an assessment of whether appropriate provision is in place to support any SEN or disability that a pupil may have. The head teacher should also consider the use of a multi-agency assessment for a pupil who demonstrates persistent disruptive behaviour. Such assessments may pick up unidentified SEN but the scope of the assessment could go further, for example, by seeking to identify mental health or family problems.

If your child is excluded

If your child is excluded you should be notified by the school by phone call in the first instance immediately following the head teachers decision to exclude. This will then be followed up with a letter from the school detailing the reason for exclusion, the day(s) it covers, information on appealing, the date the pupil is due back in school and an invitation to a reintegration meeting.

If your child’s exclusion is for a period of longer than 5 school days, the school must organise full-time alternative education from the sixth day of the exclusion and for the remainder of the exclusion. The school will communicate the times and location of the alternative education to you in a letter at least 48 hours before your child is due to attend there.

If your child is permanently excluded, the Local Authority should arrange alternative education from the sixth day after the exclusion. Alternative education will be arranged at either:

The school’s Governing Board will meet to review exclusions that mean a child has been excluded for over 15 days in a term or has been permanently excluded. The school will write at least five days before the meeting to you to inform you of when it will take place and invite you to attend.  The letter will also tell you about the schools case and let you know how you can send in any written information in advance for them to consider. For permanent exclusions the School Governors will either “uphold” the head teacher’s decision or “re-instate” the pupil. 

If you disagree with the decision to exclude your child

If you disagree with the exclusion, for any reasons, you should, first of all, try and speak to someone in the school about the exclusion. If you can’t speak to the head teacher, try and speak to the deputy head or your child’s head of year.

If the school still wants to go ahead with the exclusion, you can ask the Governing Board to meet and review the exclusion. This will happen automatically if the exclusion will result in your child being excluded for over 15 school days in a term or is permanent. This meeting will either “uphold” the decision of “re-instate” the pupil.

For permanent exclusions, If you do not agree with the decision on the Governors Board, you have the right to an independent review of the decision to permanently exclude your child.  If you wish to apply for an Independent Review Panel you must write to the LA, explaining why you wish to so, within 15 school days of the date of the Governing Board’s letter upholding the decision of Head teacher to permanently exclude. Parents have the right to request the attendance of an SEN expert at the review, regardless of whether the school recognises that their child has and special educational needs (SEN). The focus of the SEN expert’s advice should be on whether the school’s policies, relating to SEN or the application of their polices in relation to the excluded pupil, were legal, reasonable and procedurally fair.

There is no further right of appeal against fixed term exclusions, unless your child has a disability and you feel that the school has discriminated against them on the basis of their disability. In such cases, parents may make a claim under the Equality Act 2010 to the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability), in the case of disability discrimination, or the County Court in the case of other forms of discrimination. SENDiass can provide you with advice on how to appeal on these grounds.

Getting support and advice with exclusion

When a child is excluded from their education setting you may need to speak to somebody for extra support or information. You can contact us by:

If your child has special educational needs and/or a disability (SEND) you can also get support and advice from SENDiass.

Exclusions guides and information on the SENDiass website.