School suspensions and permanent exclusions

If your child has been excluded from school, it is important that the school is following the correct procedures and that you understand both the process and your rights and responsibilities.

You are responsible for your child's welfare during the time they would normally be in school. For the first 5 days of a Suspension you must make sure that your child is supervised and not in a public place during school hours. You can be prosecuted and fined if you do not do this. 

The information here applies to state schools, maintained schools, academies, free schools and pupil referral units. Fee-paying schools may have different rules.

Why schools suspend pupils

Schools can suspend pupils when their behaviour goes against the school's behaviour policy (rules) and meets the criteria for suspension or permanent exclusion as set out in the policy.

The head teacher is responsible for setting the behaviour policy and must by law publish the policy on the school's website.

Types of suspensions

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Unofficial exclusions are unlawful, but schools do sometimes use them.

An unofficial suspension 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.

Parents sometimes think that it is better to accept an unofficial suspension than to insist on an official suspension. This can be for various reasons, including:

  • not wanting a suspension on the child's record
  • worrying that not accepting the unofficial suspension could make things worse
  • not wanting to make a fuss
  • not knowing about the rules on suspensions

But there are lots of reasons why it is better for the child if you insist on an official suspension.

Why all suspensions should be official

It is clear in law that schools must formally record every suspension, even if it is only for a short period of time. This is because:

  • without formal records of the suspensions, it may seem to others that the pupil is not having difficulties in school
  • only formal suspensions count towards the official record of the number of days of suspension - by using unofficial suspensions, a school may delay or prevent further action that may help the child
  • formal suspension gives the parent/s or carer/s the right to meet with the governors who will consider the suspension and reinstatement of the pupil
  • without formal disciplinary evidence it is harder to get advice and support from external agencies
  • there is no formal mechanism for parents to challenge unofficial suspensions
  • without paperwork, parent/s or carer/s may not know that they could get fined if their child is found in a public place when they should be in school

What you should do if your child has been unofficially suspended

The first step to take if your child has been unofficially suspended is to contact the school head teacher and ask them to make the suspension a formal one. If they refuse to do so, you should write to the chair of the governors at the school's address.

A fixed term exclusion is when a child is not allowed on the school site for a stated period of time.

How long fixed term suspensions can last

Most fixed term suspensions are for less than 5 days, so the child does not miss too much schoolwork. If the suspension is for more than 5 days, then the school must provide full-time education somewhere else from the sixth day.

Fixed term suspension 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 if the school agrees.

If a pupil is given more than 45 days fixed term suspension in any one school year, the suspension automatically becomes permanent.  

What the school must do when they suspend a child for a fixed term

The school should tell you straightaway about the suspensions. They will usually do this by phone or in person. They must then put the details in writing either by post or email (if you have agreed to email notice). These details must include:

  • the reasons for the exclusion
  • the start and end date of the exclusion
  • arrangements for continuing education
  • information about your rights

The school should then set work for your child to do at home.

When the child goes back to school at the end of the suspension period, the school should arrange a 're-integration meeting' with you and your child to discuss next steps. They may suggest a referral to other support agencies, such as Early Help.

Supporting your child to get back to school

It is your responsibility as the parent/carer to ensure your child does the work set by the school and that the work is returned to the school to be marked.

It is also important to work with the school to support your child to find out what the school expects from your child and how you can best help. If the school invites you and your child to any meetings, you should go to the meeting and make sure the child goes too.

Overturning the decision to suspend a child

In some circumstances school governors can overturn the decision to suspend a child. You can put your child's case to the governors if you disagree with the suspension.

Pupils who misbehave at lunchtime may be suspended just for the lunch period. Each lunchtime suspension counts as half a day. Lunchtime suspensions should never continue indefinitely. Once the number of days of exclusion reaches 45, the exclusion automatically becomes permanent.

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 lunchtime, such as clubs and activities.

Permanent exclusion is the most serious punishment a school can give. It means the child cannot continue to go to the school unless the governors overturn the decision to exclude the child.

Schools should only use permanent exclusion in response to a serious breach or persistent breaches of the school's behaviour policy and where either or both the following apply:

  • the school has used all the available support and strategies to keep the pupil in school, but the pupil's behaviour is still not acceptable
  • letting the pupil stay in school would seriously harm the education or welfare of the pupil or others in the school

Overturning the decision to Permanently exclude your child

In some circumstances school governors can overturn the decision to permanently exclude a child. You can put your child's case to the governors if you disagree with the exclusion.

Overturning a decision to exclude a child 

In some circumstances, school governors can overturn an exclusion and allow a child back into school. This is called 'reinstatement'. You can make your child's case ('make representations') to the governors. 

Depending on the circumstances, governors must either review the exclusion automatically or will only review the exclusion if you ask (appeal). 

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When governors must automatically consider reinstatement

Governors must automatically consider reinstating a pupil when either of the following apply - you do not need to ask for the reinstatement:

  • the exclusion is permanent
  • fixed term suspension has taken the total number of school days of suspension to more than 15 days in a term

In these circumstances, governors must hold a meeting to consider reinstatement within 15 days of the permanent exclusion (or the 15th day of fixed term suspension) being issued. They will invite you and your child to the meeting. 

If your child has been suspended from school for more than 5 days but less than 16 days in a term and you want them to be reinstated, you must ask the governors to consider the case. Unless you ask, the governors will not discuss the case and cannot direct reinstatement. 

The governors must then hold a meeting to consider reinstatement within 50 days of your request and invite you and your child to the meeting.

It is likely that by the time of the meeting the suspension will have ended and the child will be back in school. If the governors decide to direct reinstatement, this will be added to your child's records. 

If the number of days suspension is no more than 5 days in a term, you do not have the right to appeal but you can write to the governors to explain your child's case. They must consider what you say, but do not have to meet you and cannot direct reinstatement.

Where a suspension means a child would miss a public exam or national curriculum test, governors must consider reinstating them and must do so before the date of the exam or test. You can write to the governors to make your child's case. If governors cannot meet, the chair of governors can make the decision independently. 

Meetings to consider reinstatement

If governors are meeting to consider reinstating your child, they will invite you and your child to take part in the meeting. The meeting is called the Governors' Board Meeting.

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Before the meeting, the governors will ask you and the school for any information that will help them make their decision.

The governors will then circulate all the information to everyone who will be at the meeting. 

Governors' Disciplinary Board meetings are attended by a small group of governors, not the whole governing body. Only governors available for the meeting are given the name of the child, and only those with no connection to the child can then take part in the meeting.  

The governors must invite parents/carers, the excluded pupil, and the head teacher. Schools funded by the local authority must also invite a representative from Cheshire East Council. Academies can choose to do this but do not have to. If a child has a Social Worker the school must also invite them to attend and make representation. 

Schools may also invite witnesses.

You can take a friend or representative to support you or speak for you.

At the meeting, you and your child will have the opportunity to speak to the governors. 

The school's case for the Permanent Exclusion will normally be made by the head teacher.

The governors will listen to everyone's views. Their role is to consider whether the head's decision to Permanent Exclusion the child was the right decision in the particular circumstances. They will then discuss the case in private to make their decision.

Governor decisions and what happens next

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The governors will say the exclusion should stay in place (uphold the exclusion) if they decide the head made the right decision. When governors uphold a permanent exclusion, parents can ask for an Independent Review of the decision. The letter you get from the governing body will tell you how to do this.

Support to move to a new school

If your child has had fixed term suspension, the school may suggest a fresh start at a different school using a managed move if the child's behaviour is not improving and they are at risk of permanent exclusion.

We may also be able to offer extra support to help the child find a place at a new school through our Fair Access Protocol.

Where a child is permanently excluded, we will give them a place at our pupil referral unit (Oakfield Lodge) until they are ready to go back to a mainstream school. We will then find them a place through Fair Access. 

The governors will direct the school to reinstate the child (overturn the decision) if they decide the head's decision to permanently exclude was wrong. They can say the child should go back to school immediately or by a certain date.

If you do not want your child to go back to the school you can apply to a different school. Your child's school record will be amended to show the permanent exclusion decision was overturned.

You can make a claim under the Equality Act 2012 if governors uphold the permanent exclusion and you believe your child has been excluded because of discrimination. Claims for disability discrimination go  to the  First-Tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability). Claims for other forms of discrimination go to the County Court.

More information

Contact the school exclusions team

You can contact our team for advice.

Page last reviewed: 17 August 2023