Understanding exclusions

A school exclusion happens when a head teacher decides that your child is not allowed to attend school either at lunchtime, for a fixed period or permanently, in response to a breach of the school’s behaviour policy.

During the exclusion, your child must not come on to the school premises at any time, including breaks, lunchtimes and after school.  They will also not be able to use school transport for that period of time.

You can find statutory guidance on the exclusion of pupils from local-authority-maintained schools, academies and pupil referral units on the gov.uk website.

Information is also available in the South Glos Inclusion toolkit section 3 

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Exclusion is the most extreme option available to a head teacher when responding to unacceptable behaviour of a pupil.

Exclusions must be:

  • lawful
  • reasonable
  • fair

Head teachers can only exclude your child on disciplinary grounds.  For a permanent exclusion there must have been either a serious breach or persistent breaches of the school’s behaviour policy, and where allowing your child to remain in school would seriously harm the education or welfare, or your child or others in the school.

Pupils should not be excluded for:

  • having a disability or special educational needs (SEN) that the school feel they are unable to meet
  • not doing well with schoolwork
  • their gender, race, religion or for becoming pregnant
  • their parent’s behaviour

Before excluding your child, the head teacher should consider whether the incident took place because of unmet needs. Where a school has concerns about your child’s behaviour they should check your child is receiving the right support.

For the first 5 days of any exclusion, the child must not be in a public place during the school day.

Types of exclusions

There are 2 types of exclusion and depending on the circumstances the headteacher will decide whether to give your child.

1. Fixed period exclusion

Fixed period exclusions can last for a specific number of days.  The number of days and when your child should return to school will be made clear by the head teacher and communicated in a letter.  Your child cannot be excluded for more than 45 days in one school year if your child exceeds 45 days exclusion they may be permanently excluded. For the first five days of exclusion, work should be set and marked by school.  From day six onwards, the school will need to ensure that education is provided and should be suitable and full-time.

A lunchtime exclusion is also a fixed exclusion, these are normally used when a child's behaviour is unacceptable in the playground.  You must take responsibility for your child for the lunch break and return your child for the start of afternoon school.  If a child is asked by the school to go home at lunchtimes, this must be treated as a half day fixed period exclusion for each lunchtime, even when the child returns to school in the afternoon.

2. Permanent exclusion

Permanent exclusion is the most serious step that a head teacher can take and it means that the child is no longer able to attend the school.  The school must notify its governing body and the Local Authority within one school day of the exclusion.  The first five days after exclusion, school should send suitable work home and from day six onwards it is the council’s responsibility to provide suitable full-time education.  Your child will be provided with an education by Pathways Learning Centre, which is a pupil referral unit (PRU), to continue their education whilst a new school is found.

The rights of your child

You should never be asked to keep your child at home because:

  • there is no one available to support them with their special educational needs or disabilities
  • your child’s behaviour may have a negative impact on an Ofsted inspection
  • your child will not be sitting exams with their peers

Similarly, a school cannot suggest that you home educate your child so that they:

  • avoid your child being permanently excluded
  • improve their school results and attendance
  • avoid damaging their chances of having a positive Ofsted inspection.

‘Off rolling’ and ‘gaming’ are unlawful permanent exclusions.  ‘Off-rolling’ is when school removes your child from the school roll in the perceived interests of the school, rather than your child.  ‘Gaming’ is any process when the school’s actions or decision to exclude, or not to exclude, are made in order to favour the school.

You can read more information on your child’s legal rights in a factsheet on the independent provider of special education advice IPSEA website.

I do not agree with my child’s exclusion

If you do not agree with your child’s fixed period exclusion you can write to the school’s governing body or put your concerns in writing to them.  They do not have to meet with you if the exclusion is for less than 5½ days, but they must consider your views.

If your child has been permanently excluded, the fixed period exclusion brings the total number of days to 15 in a term or it will result in your child missing a public emanation or national curriculum test, then the governing body must consider reinstatement within 15 days of receiving notice of the exclusion.

You should attend that hearing and make representation to the Governing Body.  You may wish to take independent advice before the hearing. 

In the case of a permanent exclusion, if the school governors uphold the decision of the head teacher, you have the right to ask for this decision to be reviewed by an Independent Review Panel (IRP). If your child is permanently excluded you will receive a letter that explains how to do so.  If your child has special education needs (SEN) you can ask for the review panel to get the help of a SEN expert to give neutral advice on the policies in place at your child’s school and whether how they were applied was lawful, reasonable and procedurally fair.   If that is not the case the SEN expert will advise the panel on the possible contribution that this could have had on the circumstances of the exclusion.  The Independent Review Panel cannot order the school to reinstate your child but may direct or recommend that the governing body considers reinstating your child.

If you believe there has been an element of discrimination with your child’s permanent exclusion, you can bring a claim to a First-Tier Disability Discrimination Tribunal (FTT) any time from the date of exclusion.

Returning your child to school after exclusion

Schools should have a strategy for reintegrating pupils who return to school following a fixed period exclusion, including how to manage their future behaviour.

Some schools will hold a reintegration meeting for you and your child to discuss this. The meeting can also be a chance for you to air your views and concerns, particularly if you were not entitled to a meeting with the governing body to consider the head teacher’s decision to exclude.

Internal exclusions

Internal exclusions are used when a teacher wants to move your child from class for disciplinary reasons, but they are not allowed to leave the school site.

This is done usually for children who are disruptive in class, with immediate action taken to remove them.

These are not legal exclusions, so are not covered by any legislation.  However, the school behaviour policy should record that internal exclusions can be used and in what circumstance.

Part-time timetables

Schools can sometimes suggest that your child should be on a part-time timetable.  This should only be used if it is benefitting your child and with your full agreement.

Your child should not be put on a part-time timetable purely because the school doesn’t have the resources or have failed to make the reasonable adjustments needed to support their needs.

If your child has been forced out of school for any reason, you or your child may have grounds for legal action against the school.  If your child has special educational needs you can contact Supportive Parents for advice.

Informal exclusions

If the school asks you to keep your child at home as part of an informal arrangement this is an informal exclusion.  You might feel that the school is being helpful by not adding an exclusion to your child’s record,  however, this can result in them missing out and needing to catch up.  It can also mask the depth of your child’s difficulties which may otherwise prompt a needs assessment.

Any exclusion of a pupil, even for short periods of time, must be formally recorded and the correct procedure followed.  Informal exclusions (including those lasting for an indefinite period) are unlawful, regardless of whether parents have agreed to them.

Managed moves

Some schools have arranged a voluntary agreement between themselves to implement a managed move where your child will go to another school.  This is not part of the statutory process.  Managed moves can be used as an alternative to permanent exclusion as no exclusion is formally recorded on your child’s school record.  You can find more information about managed moves on the child law advice website.

Further information and support

If your child has been excluded from school you may want further support and independent advice.

You can find statutory guidance on the exclusion of pupils from local-authority-maintained schools, academies and pupil referral units on the gov.uk website.

Further information on exclusions is available from the on School Exclusion Project website.

If your child has special educational needs you can contact the local special educational needs and disability information advice and support (SENDIAS) service, SEND and You.  They can listen to your concerns and advise you on your rights.  They also have a toolkit to help you understand about exclusions.  

Download a factsheet with further information on exclusions for children with a special educational need (SEN) from the independent provider of special education advice (IPSEA) website.

For professionals working with children and young people within a school, college or education setting environment, there is guidance on developing an exclusions policy available on the South Gloucestershire Children's Partnership website (this can be found under 'Behaviour').