Exclusion can be a stressful time for the whole family. The Information, Advice and Support Service can help if there is a special educational need or disability. Sometimes “unwanted behaviours” can be a sign of an unmet special educational need, indicating the need for support.
A suspension is when a pupil is formally and temporarily removed from school for a fixed period of time for disciplinary reasons. A suspension can also be for parts of the school day (for example, a lunchtime suspension counts as a half-day suspension).
A permanent exclusion is when a pupil is removed from school permanently and their name is taken off the school roll. However, they must remain on the Admissions Register until the parents/carers have been through, or declined to go through, the independent review process that they are entitled to request.
An ‘informal’ or ‘unofficial’ suspension, such as sending a pupil home ‘to cool off’, is unlawful, regardless of whether it is agreed with the parents or carers. Any suspension or exclusion of a pupil, even for short periods of time, must be formally recorded and the Local Authority notified.
Only the head teacher of a school can suspend or permanently exclude a pupil and this must be on disciplinary grounds. A pupil may be suspended for one or more fixed periods (up to a maximum of 45 school days in a single academic year), or permanently excluded. A suspension does not have to be for a continuous period.
The behaviour of a pupil outside school can be considered grounds for suspension or permanent exclusion.
The head teacher may withdraw an exclusion that has not been reviewed by the governing body.
Under the Equality Act 2010, schools must not discriminate against, harass or victimise pupils because of: sex; race; disability; religion or belief; sexual orientation; pregnancy/ maternity; or gender reassignment. For disabled children, this includes a duty to make reasonable adjustments to policies and practices and the provision of auxiliary aids.
It is unlawful to exclude for a non-disciplinary reason. For example, it would be unlawful to exclude a pupil simply because they have additional needs or a disability that the school feels it is unable to meet; or for 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.
Before taking the decision to exclude, any contributing factors that are identified after an incident should be considered e.g. where it comes to light that the pupil has suffered bereavement, has mental health issues or has been subject to bullying.
The head teacher and governing body must comply with their statutory duties in relation to special educational needs throughout the exclusion process.
Disruptive behaviour can be a sign of unmet needs. The head teacher should consider what extra support might be needed to identify and address the needs of pupils to reduce their risk of exclusion. Intervention to address underlying causes of disruptive behaviour should include 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.
When a head teacher suspends or excludes a pupil, they must without delay contact the parent to inform them of the suspension or exclusion and provide parents with the following information in writing:
- the reason(s) for the suspension or exclusion;
- the length of the suspension or if a permanent exclusion the fact that it is a permanent exclusion;
- the parents’ right to put forward their case about the suspension or permanent exclusion to the governing board, how they should go about doing this and how the pupil can be involved; and
- when relevant, what alternative provision will be arranged.
The governing board has a duty to consider parents’ representations about a suspension or permanent exclusion.
The governing body must consider and decide on the reinstatement of a suspended or permanently excluded pupil within 15 school days of receiving notice of a suspension or permanent exclusion from the headteacher if:
- it is a permanent exclusion;
- it is a suspension which would bring the pupil's total number of school days out of school to more than 15 in a term; or
- it would result in the pupil missing a public examination (e.g. GCSE) or national curriculum test (e.g. a key stage 2 test taken at the end of primary school).
For a suspension that brings a pupil’s total suspended days to more than five but under 16 in a term the governing board must consider reinstatement within 50 school days if the parent asks it to do this.
For a suspension which does not bring the pupil's total number of suspended days to more than five in a term, the governing board must consider any representations made by parents. If parents request a meeting there is no deadline for this to be arranged, however, it should happen within a reasonable amount of time.
If the governing board decides not to reinstate the pupil who has been permanently excluded, parents can request an independent review panel to review the governing board’s decision.
Schools should take reasonable steps to set work for pupils during the first five days of a suspension.
For the first five school days of any suspension or permanent exclusion, parents must ensure that their child of compulsory school age is not in a public place during school hours without very good reason. Parents must also ensure that their child attends any new full-time education provided from the sixth day of exclusion (unless they have arranged suitable alternative education themselves).
From the sixth day of a suspension or permanent exclusion, suitable full-time education must be arranged for pupils of compulsory school age (primary and secondary school age), except for Year 11 pupils (final year of secondary school) whose final exams have passed. In the case of a suspension of more than five school days, it is the duty of the school to arrange this education, unless the school is a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) in which case the local authority should make arrangement.
In the case of a permanent exclusion, arranging suitable full-time education is the duty of the local authority for the area where the pupil lives.
In Wolverhampton all pupils who are permanently excluded from school are allocated a Senior Inclusion Officer who becomes their key worker. The Senior Inclusion Officer visits the family to discuss the case. It is their responsibility to find alternative provision by day 6 of the exclusion. This is often short-term provision whilst a new school or long term provision is arranged. The Senior Inclusion Officer remains actively involved with the case until the pupil has been admitted to their long term provision.
IPSEA advice and information on exclusion from school
The procedures for excluding pupils from school are found in legislative guidance