Pupil exclusion from school

This information is to help you understand what it means when your child has been excluded from a State School, Maintained School, Academy, Free School or Pupil Referral Unit, and what your rights are.

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Every school must have a behaviour policy. Head teachers are responsible for setting the standard of behaviour expected of pupils at the school and any sanctions and rewards in relation to the school rules. The school behaviour policy must be shared with staff, parents and pupils at least once a year.

Schools have been given powers to use exclusion as a means of maintaining high standards of discipline. The government have set out these powers in statutory guidance. More information can be found on the education.gov.uk website exclusions pages.

The following summary gives a brief overview of exclusions and the new statutory guidance.

Unofficial exclusions

An unofficial exclusion is when a pupil is sent home from school without a formal fixed term exclusion being recorded. The school may suggest that the pupil needs a ‘cooling off’ period. It may last for more than one day. The parent does not receive any paperwork for this.

Why parents agree to this

  • they do not want an exclusion on their child’s record
  • they are worried that if they do not agree there will be a more serious consequence
  • they do not want to make a fuss
  • they do not know about or understand the statutory regulations regarding exclusions

Why all exclusions should be official

  • if there are no official records of exclusions it appears to others that the pupil is not having difficulties in school
  • formal exclusion gives the parent/s or carer/s the right to meet with the governors who will consider the exclusion and reinstatement of the pupil
  • without formal disciplinary evidence it is harder to obtain advice and / or support from agencies
  • parent/s or carer/s will be unaware of the fine that may be imposed if the child if out in a public place when they are not allowed into school
  • guidance is clear that unofficial exclusions are unlawful

The head teacher is responsible for the safeguarding of all pupils on roll during the school day. The only times they are not responsible are if the child is ill and has been kept at home or if they are formally excluded and the responsibility goes to the parents

Paragraph 13 of the Statutory Guidance states that  “informal ‘ or ‘unofficial’ exclusions are unlawful regardless of whether they occur with the agreement of parents or carers.  Any exclusion of a pupil, even for a short period of time, must be formally recorded”. 

Fixed term exclusions

A fixed term exclusion is when a child is not allowed on the school site for a defined period of time because they have done something which is against the schools behaviour policy (the school rules) and the head teacher decides warrants exclusion.

Most fixed term exclusions are for short periods of time (usually less than 5 days) so the child does not miss too much school work.  If the fixed term exclusion is for more than 5 days then the school must provide full time education from the sixth day at an alternative venue.

You may be contacted initially by the school by telephone, to inform you about the exclusion, but you must always receive a letter telling you when the exclusion starts and ends. The letter may also give you information about your child’s return to school e.g. who they should report to or if the school want to meet with you and your child to plan for and support the return. It is important that you attend this meeting.

The school must always provide work for an excluded pupil to do at home. It is your responsibility as the parent/carer to ensure your child does the work and it is returned to the school to be marked.

Fixed term exclusion does not have to be for a continuous period. If your child attends college or a work placement on some school days they may still continue with this with the agreement of the school.

An individual pupil may not be given more than 45 days fixed term exclusion in any one school year.  If the number of days fixed term exclusion exceeds this it will automatically become a permanent exclusion. If your child is being excluded from school it is very important for you to work with the school to support your child’s education. The school may arrange meetings with you or may suggest a multi agency meeting such as an Early Help meeting. 

Lunchtime exclusions

Pupils who misbehave at lunchtime may be excluded just for the lunch period. Each lunchtime exclusion counts as half a day. Lunch time exclusions should never continue indefinitely. If a pupil is entitled to free school meals the school should offer to provide a packed lunch.

Schools usually have other ways of managing pupil behaviour at lunch time such as lunchtime clubs/activities.

Permanent exclusion

Permanent exclusion is the most serious punishment a school can give for infringement of the schools’ behaviour policy (the school rules).  It means the child cannot continue to attend the school unless they are reinstated by the governors. It should only be used as a last resort when a school has exhausted all support and strategies to keep the pupil in school and where allowing the pupil to remain in school would seriously harm the education or welfare of the pupil or others in the school. A permanent exclusion can be used for a serious, one off offence.

For more comprehensive information about behaviour and exclusions you can visit the Child Law Advice website where you will find legal advice on exclusions. They have a free advice line open daily Monday – Friday 8am - 6pm. Call 0300 330 5485.

Exclusion – your rights

The governing body has a duty to consider the reinstatement of a pupil:

  • if the exclusion is permanent
  • if it is a fixed period exclusion which takes the pupils total to more than 15 days in the term
  • if it would mean the pupil would miss a public examination or national curriculum test
  • if the parent / carer requests a meeting when the pupil has been excluded from school for more than 5 days but not more than 15 days in a term.

If the number of days exclusion is not more than 5 in the term the governing body must consider the view of a parent but they do not have to meet with them and they cannot direct re-instatement.

Your child can attend this meeting with your permission and you can if you wish be accompanied by a friend or representative.

The governing body, after listening to everyone’s views can either:

  • uphold an exclusion
  • direct re-instatement of the pupil immediately or by a certain date.

In the case of a permanent exclusion, if the governing body uphold the exclusion and you want to take the matter further, you have the right to request an independent review of the decision. The letter that is sent to you by the governing body will tell you how you can do this. If you believe the exclusion has occurred as a result of discrimination then you can make a claim under the Equality Act 2012 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.

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