Exclusions from school

2. Reasons for exclusion or suspension

Only a head teacher or a person acting the in the head teacher’s absence can exclude or suspend a child from school.

The headteacher can take a decision to exclude or suspend a pupil:

  • In response to serious breaches of a school's behaviour policy - all schools have a written policy which sets out how pupils are expected to behave.
  • Where allowing your child to remain in school would seriously harm the education and welfare of your child or others in the school.

All exclusions must be for disciplinary reasons only and all schools must have a behaviour policy setting out the school rules.

Any decision to exclude or suspend a pupil must be lawful, reasonable and fair. Schools have a statutory duty not to discriminate against pupils on the basis of protected characteristics, such as disability or race. Schools should give particular consideration to the fair treatment of pupils from groups who are vulnerable to exclusion.

The behaviour of a pupil outside of school can be considered grounds for an exclusion. This can include behaviour on school trips and travelling to and from school. Cyber-bullying outside of school can also lead to an exclusion.

Before deciding to exclude, the school should also take into account any factors that might have affected the child’s behaviour, for example:

  • Bullying
  • Mental health issues
  • Bereavement
  • Unidentified special educational needs

When exclusion is not allowed

It is unlawful to exclude a child for a non disciplinary reason such as:

  • If your child has special educational needs and the school says it can’t meet those needs. It should look at putting more or different support in place instead.
  • If your child is not doing well in school or is not as able as other children. A child cannot be excluded or suspended because they are not likely to get good exam results.
  • Because of something you have done as a parent. That might be something like making a complaint, or not going to a meeting at school.
  • Not allowing a child back into school after a suspension unless they meet particular conditions. Once the exclusion is ended, your child must be allowed to go back. For example, the head teacher can’t extend the exclusion because your child won’t admit they are guilty

If your school suggests an 'informal' or 'unofficial' suspension, for example your child is sent home and the school do not follow the correct procedures. This may be presented as doing the parent and child a favour by not making it official, however even if you agree to this, it is an unlawful suspension, no matter how short the period of time, and it should be formally recorded as an exclusion.

Examples of ‘informal’ suspensions might be if your child is sent home:

  • until a meeting is arranged
  • over lunchtimes
  • to cool off or while another school is found
  • while an incident is being investigated

Children should not be asked to stay at home because the school cannot provide for their special educational needs. If this happens, remind the school that this amounts to an unlawful, unofficial exclusion or suspension. You may also wish to let your area education office know that this is happening.

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