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School Exclusions and the Law

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 15 Oct 2019 |
 
School Exclusion Appeal Days Fixed Term

If your child has been excluded from school, you are likely to have numerous questions about where this leaves the future of your child’s education. School exclusions are divided into two types, fixed-term exclusions and permanent exclusions. While permanent exclusions mean that your child is removed from the school roll, a fixed-term exclusion is for a limited period. Only a head teacher, acting head teacher or teacher in charge of a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) can exclude a child.

Fixed-Term Exclusions

These types of exclusions cannot be open-ended. The child should know exactly how long he or she has been excluded from school and when he or she will be allowed to return. The maximum amount of time for which a child can be excluded is 45 days in any single school year. It is also possible to exclude a child at lunch time, which counts for a half day in England and quarter of a day in Wales. The independent watchdog Ofsted has stated that a fixed-term exclusion of between one and three days is usually long enough to demonstrate the consequences of the child’s behaviour without affecting his or her development and education.

Fixed-term exclusions should only be used where a child has seriously breached a school’s behaviour policy and the breach is not serious enough for a permanent exclusion, and other sanctions such as detention are not appropriate. A pupil can appeal a fixed term exclusion decision through the school’s governing body.

Permanent Exclusions

Permanent exclusions should be used as a last resort, and if all other processes and means of trying to improve the child’s behaviour have failed. There should be a structured process prior to the exclusion, that should endeavour to address the child’s behaviour before any such decision permanently to exclude is made. Each school must have a policy on exclusion, and staff must be trained and procedures implemented to encourage the good behaviour of school children.

If your child is permanently excluded, you can appeal within a set time limit. Failure to lodge an appeal within the specified time may mean that your child’s exclusion is permanent. Of course, any appeal may not be successful but if your child has been excluded it is worth seeking advice on the merits of an appeal as early as possible. If the appeal to the school’s governing body fails, a child who is permanently excluded can appeal to an independent appeal panel.

If you are still unhappy with the decision of the independent appeal panel, you may be able to judicially review it. This is, however, a complicated and drawn out process, and you should seek specialist legal advice from an education lawyer before embarking on this course of action.

Decisions Permanently to Exclude

A decision to exclude a child from a school permanently should only be made in the following circumstances:

  • Where the child has seriously breached a school’s policy on behaviour, either because of one very serious offence or several offences AND
  • That allowing the child to stay at the school would seriously damage the welfare and/or education of the child, or that of other pupils at the school.

A permanent exclusion is usually issued when an incident is exceptionally serious. This may be, for example, because the child has:

  • Threatened or used serious violence against a teacher, other member of staff or pupil
  • Carried out an act of sexual abuse or assault
  • Supplied illicit drug(s)
  • Been found to be carrying a weapon

Non-Exclusion Offences

A child should never be excluded for committing minor incidents, such as failing to complete homework, for being late, breaches of school uniform rules, or for poor academic performance. A child should not be excluded as punishment for the behaviour of their parents, for example, if the parents fail to attend a scheduled meeting about their child. It is also never appropriate to exclude a child who is being bullied by sending them home for their own protection. Similarly, it is not lawful for a child to be ‘informally excluded’, by being sent home to calm down, for example.

What About SEN children or those with disabilities?

It is illegal to exclude a child on the ground of his or her disability. Schools should avoid sending SEN children home other than in exceptional situations.

School Exclusion Procedure

Once the decision has been made to exclude a child, the head teacher should decide whether the exclusion is to be fixed-term or permanent. If it is a fixed-term exclusion, the length must be fixed for a precise period of time, and reasons for the exclusion should be given in a letter within one school day. Usually the parent or guardian will be informed by telephone on the day of the exclusion. The parent has a right to make representations to the school’s governing body, and the letter should set out how to do this and who to contact in order to do this.

There is a right to see the child’s school record, and the parent or guardian should also be informed that their child should not be in a public place during the period of exclusion without reasonable justification. If this is not adhered to, the parent may be prosecuted or fined. If the local authority or the school considers that the child’s parent may have had something to do with the child’s poor behaviour, the parent may be offered a Parenting Contract.

The school should allow the child to continue his or her education during the first five days that the exclusion is in place. The parent or guardian remains responsible for ensuring that the child completes the work and that it is sent back to the school.

At the end of a fixed-term exclusion, the parent should be invited by the school to attend the school for a ‘reintegration interview.’ This is to help the child back to school and to help him or her improve their behaviour. The child will normally be allowed to attend all or part of this interview.

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My granddaughter was bullied for 3 months, she suffered verbal abuse, posts on social media, threats from children from another school. She was put in access but they still managed to shout abuse at her. They would take turns to sit in her seat, knowing she would have to find another seat or request the teacher move them. Her French text was ripped up in front of her and vile abuse used. Teachers tried to stop this but unfortunately it came to a head one day after suffering another day of abuse, she went over to three girls and challenged them which resulted in a fight which she started and she ended up excluded permanently. She told me she just wanted it to stop and just lost it when she went over. She is deeply sorry and knows this was wrong but I feel the 3 months of bullying was not taken into account and it was a way of the school solving the problem.
Daisy - 23-Aug-19 @ 11:58 AM
My son got angry today in pe and hit a stick with his hand and broke it he is scared he might get excluded for it but can he get excluded?
Rayyan - 10-Jul-19 @ 9:40 PM
My son got angry at school today and hit a stick with his hand in pe and he is scared he might get excluded for this can he get excluded?
Rayyan - 10-Jul-19 @ 9:38 PM
My daughter is in year 12. At the beginning of the school year, the school held parents meeting about 6th form. One of the things highlighted was that if a student gets a grading lower than a D in their year 12 Mick exams they would not be allowed to continue to year 13. My daughter got an E for one of the subjects. She has been very stressed and told me that the school will have meetings with parents of those students who have failed about exclusion from school. I got a phone call to make an appointment with the head of year. They wouldn't tell me what it was about over the phone. I would like to go equipped with info about the legality of exclusion based on performance. Where can i get advice should they say they want to exclude her?.I cannot afford to pay for legal advice. thank you
Winnie - 9-Jul-19 @ 10:43 AM
My son had gone into school and came home upset saying he didnt get any school dinner considering i had contact the school earlier that day to inform them that he was goin to have a school meal because he forgot his lunch at home and i was unable to bring it in for lunch time. I went into the school on Tuesday 25th June 19 to ask about what had happen bare in mind at this point i was fumming and upset and got into an argument with the staff which i believe was the head teacher and another male teacher i found the male teacher intimidating that he was close up in my face and i asked him if he could step back he refused at this point they threatened to call the police and i told them i was happy to wait as i hadnt done anything wrong the head teacher then suggested that i should find a new school for my children and she will arange a meeting for me to come in as i am now banned from the school and not allowed to make any contact also the school will not be contacting me. My children has been out of school since Tuesday and no phone call had been made advising me of what to do, i then got my neighbour to bring my children in on Friday 28th june my children were turnt away without me being informed or present it was my neighbour who bought them home i am very disgusted with what the school had done as iv been informed that they are excluded from school with a letter not explaining why along with a transfer school application form. I have contact the inclusion team and they have not got any notes reguarding the absent of both children and that it is not usual for a school to write to the parent its usually the inclusion team that should be notified, My son does not feel comfortable with this and no meeting was called and i have not been able explained to them how i felt an how my son felt i have followed school procedure and have seen this as a cause for concern that i am sending my children to school and they are not having lunch and being picked on by staff. My main concerns is having my two children kicked out from school 11 and 4 years old bare im mind my 11 year old has just finished his SATS and awaiting his results unfortunately he wont be able to say goodbye to his year 6 friends as he transfers over to secondary school as he has been excluded for no reason
Cam - 29-Jun-19 @ 8:14 AM
My son has been given a fixed term exclusion from college.They have not investigated yet but excluded 5 children on the basis that as a ‘group’ they were misusing the recording studio (eating and drinking in it and breaking college policy) and making unkind comments about another student (this is the 2nd warning about this for 2 of them). Can the college exclude my child as part of a group? Can they do it without knowing the facts, they didn’t even ask him about it as an individual? They just came in and said they were taking a stand and that they had to leave and not come back until after the Easter holidays. Can they do this without evidence? My son hasn’t actually been involved, he was in another room when the kids were eating and as for the unkind comments, again, can he be excluded for what others may or may not have said?
Jules - 2-Apr-19 @ 7:22 PM
My son is 15 and has received a 5 day exclusion from school for smoking drugs on a school trip. What does this mean for his school record? It was his first offence. He realises he was very stupid and there are some mental health issues which the school is aware of relating to bullying, as he has been attending the school counsellor, but we only became aware of this after the incident.As the exclusion willbe recorded will this be revealed to potential universities and/or employers and can I ask for the mitigation circumstances to be recorded too?
LOUL - 16-Jan-19 @ 1:46 PM
If my child is in school but refuses to go to isolation can the school class this has an unauthorised abcense and fine me which is what the Head Teacher has said she's going to do.
Tracy - 17-Dec-18 @ 10:14 AM
My 15 year old daughter, who is waiting for an assessment for ASD, got caught smoking at school (she said she does this to calm herself down).She went to isolation but now they have given her a 5 day fixed term exclusion when she is sitting her mock exams next week.I know some teachers want her out and wonder if this has been done on purpose.If she fails her PPEs she will be sent to their referral unit to study functional skills.Does anyone have any advice.I am desperate.
Mumoftwins - 29-Nov-18 @ 6:07 PM
Can a child be permanently excluded if waiting for an assessment by CAMS?
J - 28-Nov-18 @ 6:42 PM
My daughter has been threatened with an exclusion if she continues to miss homework deadlines. School are not setting to their policy and have stated they will log the exclusion as disruption. Pretty sure they can’t do this. Please advise
P - 23-Nov-18 @ 1:56 AM
My son has been excluded from school today for uploading a video that didn't show any child's faces but they were heard talking about another child who had made racist comments about my son.. the school left a message on my voicemail yesterday saying he was in isolation and that the teacher needed to talk to the headteacher to see if the matter warranted my son being excluded I was told I'd be informed when a decision was made... I called the school twice this morning to talk to the teacher as I had left 3 messages for her yesterday... On my 2nd call today I told her secretary I'd be unable to answer any call till after 2 .30 as I was at work... Meeting my son after school he informed me he had been excluded and had been sent home with homework... I've still at this point had no communication with any of his teachers nor had they emailed me or sent me a text message telling me the decision regarding the meeting about excluding him which I have now found out took place at lunch time today.. I finally got to speak to his head of year who showed me but wouldn't give me a copy of a letter they planned to send out in the next couple of days detailing why me son's been excluded. Apparently I couldn't have a copy as the headteacher hadn't signed it and had left the school and is not due back till Friday so I wouldn't review the letter until Saturday or Monday .. My question is if I have not been informed prior to my son leaving school today that he was to be excluded for 3 days is it still lawfully.. I had no messages to say the meeting had taken place and the result of it.. They are now trying to say because I said not to call till after 2.30 they couldn't get hold of me .. my answer to that is you could have sent me a text or email ... The school teacher did finally call me back at 4.10 pm and couldn't understand why I was not a happy woman... The head of year also informed me that by law I didn't need to be given any notice of my son's exclusion !!!!!
Jjs mum - 21-Nov-18 @ 11:15 PM
My son was sent home in the last day of the recent half term so he only did half a day, the reason given was an incident had happened in school involving 3 others and I was to keep him home on the first day of the new term pending a phone call, I received that phone call today and was told that he was being excluded for 3 days following a bullying incident, I was told that my son and another dragged a boy in to a toilet cubicle and wouldn’t let him out I was told the boy was distressed and screaming let me out and let me go, I was told it was all on video. After speaking to my son who gave a very different account I also watched the video footage which did not show any of the things the teacher said had happened, yes the boys were messing around but the other boy walked in and was not dragged in and he could have left at any time and was laughing to, so a completely different account then what I was told. Athough I think my son has been stupid and perhaps a sanction is required I’m not sure the label of bully and a three day exclusion fits the actions ?? I am more concerned that I was lied to about what actually happened any thoughts ?
K - 29-Oct-18 @ 3:40 PM
Hi, my 5 year old son (born at only 29 weeks) so some developmental delays and behaviour problems had improved a lot but upon starting in reception has started to bite other kids in an afternoon when he is over tired and struggles to communicate his emotions. He hadn't done this for ages so think the new environment has triggered this again. He has SEN needs. Whilst I understand his behaviour is unacceptable and we are doing everything we can to tackle this - the school have put him in a high visibility jacket at playtimes (like a big warning sign). Our son hates this and he is the only child made to wear this despite other kids scratching and pushing my son off his chair which gave him a massive egg shaped lump on his head. Are they allowed to single him out and make my son wear this? It feels like they are pushing us out rather than working together to resolve this. They put my son on a part time timetable this week then excluded him for 2 days. Our son does not even understand the exclusion despite us explaining it was due to his behaviour. I know the school have a duty of care to protect the other children but I also feel isolated and unsupported in trying to stop the biting. We are at our wits end.
HM - 19-Oct-18 @ 5:34 PM
*** PLEASE IGNORE PREVIOUS POST AS THERE WERE ERRORS *** My daughter (yr10) was told to leave the class after being given a c3 (I thought it was c4 removal from class, but apparently this teacher doesn't know the procedures). She was falsely accused of disrupting the class by laughing at someone sneezing (which she didn't), the teacher actually said that the noise (laughing) came from her direction (no actual proof just an assumption) and was given the c3. At that point my daughter calmly and politely said "it wasnt me", the teacher then shouted at her "are you challenging me?" then she got kicked out of class. She went to reception where she was told to goto e1 (a so called "matrix") (a different year class) and fill out a yellow form. The teacher from e1 (matrix) then asked my daughter why she had been given a c4 which she replied she hadn't the original teacher said a c3 and even ticked c3 on the whiteboard with her name on, but the teacher from e1, after about 20mins, told her she had to report to a different teacher to be booked in for a detention for 30mins after school Monday. She couldn't find this "other" teacher and my wife tore the yellow form up and stated quite categorically my daughter will not be doing detention. We are unsure if the original teacher who gave her the c3 knows the procedure and it is unclear if she will have a detention, either way if my daughter does not attend any detentions etc and gets a fixed term exclusion (after progressing down the consequences path) , upon her return would she then have to do the detention still or is the exclusion punishment enough?
Rbcjhub - 21-Sep-18 @ 12:44 AM
My daughter (yr10) was told to leave the class after being given a c3 (I thought it was c4 removal from class, but apparently this teacher doesn't know the procedures). She was falsely accused of disrupting the class by laughing at someone sneezing (which she didn't), the teacher actually said that the noise (laughing) came from her direction and was given the c3. At that point my calmly and politely said "it was me", the teacher then shouted at her "are you challenging me?" then she got kicked out of class. She went to reception where she was told to goto e1 (a different year class) and fill out a yellow form. The teacher from e1 then asked my daughter had she been given a c4 which she replied no a c3, but the this teacher told her she had to report to this other teacher to be booked in for a detention. She couldn't find this "other" teacher and my wife tore the yellow form up and stated quite categorically my daughter will not be doing detention. We are unsure if the original teacher who gave her the c3 knows the procedure and it is unclear if she will have a detention, either way if my daughter does not attend any detentions etc and gets a fixed term exclusion, upon her return would she then have to do the detention or is the exclusion punishment enough?
Rbcjhub - 21-Sep-18 @ 12:36 AM
My twin boys age 4 just started reception, they have been at the school since they was 2 half at there nursery boys was always split up one goes one day the other goes the other day, there struggling being togeather behavier wise head teacher is saying she will exclude them is this fair??
Shel - 17-Sep-18 @ 8:36 PM
Jess - Your Question:
Can an academy force my child to wear a bike helmet to cycle to and from school, if not they face isolation and confiscate bike ?

Our Response:
It's reasonable to have this as a condition of being able to take a bike to school. It's like having to wear a blazer. If your child is representing the school they should be expected to show that they are committed to making sensible safety choices too?
LawAndParents - 10-Sep-18 @ 2:32 PM
Can an academy force my child to wear a bike helmet to cycle to and from school, if not they face isolation and confiscate bike ?
Jess - 3-Sep-18 @ 8:59 PM
Lp - Your Question:
If my child has been permanently excluded does that automatically mean that they would be sent to an PRU?

Our Response:
Noif your child is of compulsory school age your Local Authority must provide them with education, which should normally be full-time in school.
LawAndParents - 5-Jul-18 @ 3:33 PM
BD - Your Question:
My daughter was excluded for five days because she was in possession of drugs and they said that there would be a meeting regarding if she should be permanently excluded or not, because of the whole situation are the chances of her getting permanently excluded high?

Our Response:
We don't know unfortunately. This will depend on the school's policy and your daughter's record at the school.
LawAndParents - 5-Jul-18 @ 3:28 PM
My son is in a Grammer School and is behind in his homework and has been late for school quite a few times as we live very far away.He has had a few minor incidents e.g: throwing sweets in the corridor. He is in Year 10 and will be doing his GCSE’s next year.The head called a meeting and told us that he was giving us an opportunity to find another school for him before the end of this year, or if not there was a 95% chance that he would be excluded when returning back in September.He is trying to force us to change my sons school,and said if he misses a homework or is late in the new school year he would be permantly excluded straight away.Can he do this?I’m not sure what to do.
Elle - 4-Jul-18 @ 12:02 PM
My 6 year old granddaughter had been permanently excluded due to her behaviour she had not been firmly sssessed for Autoday and now school wants her to attend a behavioural unit without her being formally diagnosed in September.Is that rhe has to attend a PR unit this does not seem fair
None - 3-Jul-18 @ 7:21 PM
If my child has been permanently excluded does that automatically mean that they would be sent to an PRU?
Lp - 2-Jul-18 @ 8:15 PM
My daughter was excluded for five daysbecause she was in possession of drugs and they said that there would be a meeting regarding if she should be permanently excluded or not, because of the whole situation are the chances of her getting permanently excluded high?
BD - 2-Jul-18 @ 8:13 PM
I was asked to pick my child up from school after dangerous behavior no mention of exclusion yet 5 hours later I receive a call to say it was an exclusion is this legal
Zoe Gillies - 29-Jun-18 @ 8:06 PM
P - Your Question:
Hi. My son was permanently excluded from school, he had 2 school moves but was also excluded from these which resulted in some home tutoring for the remaining months. However all my benefits(including child benefit) for him stopped on his 16th birthday and I have been left to support him on my own disability money. He cannot claim any benefits until he is 18. My own health has deteriorated due to the stress of trying to cope alone with no support from any department. He was diagnosed with adhd/add. Can someone please give me some advice on what I can claim. The dwp informed me that I should of at least, still received my child benefit for him and should not of been forced into supporting him on my own disability. Is this correct? Many thanks.

Our Response:
Child Benefit is only given while a child is in approved education. Talk to local colleges and see if there are any NVQ or other vocational courses which might suit your son better - he can probably start one in September. If he does, you will be able to claim Child Benefit while he is on the course (usually 2 years). In the meantime, check to see if you're eligible for Universal Credit
LawAndParents - 20-Jun-18 @ 10:28 AM
Hi. My son was permanently excluded from school, he had 2 school moves but was also excluded from these which resulted in some home tutoring for the remaining months. However all my benefits(including child benefit) for him stopped on his 16th birthday and i have been left to support him on my own disability money. He cannot claim any benefits until he is 18. My own health has deteriorated due to the stress of trying to cope alone with no support from any department. He was diagnosed with adhd/add. Can someone please give me some advice on what I can claim. The dwp informed me that I should of at least, still received my child benefit for him and should not of been forced into supporting him on my own disability. Is this correct? Many thanks.
P - 16-Jun-18 @ 12:20 PM
Danny - Your Question:
Hi my child has been excluded permanently from a private school on the basis of myself putting a post on social media regarding the way he's been treated recently. The letter from the head stated. Posting on social media to give the school a bad name your child is not welcome to come back even though they have the full fees for the full term.There is only 5 weeks left and he leave the school anyway as year 6. Is there anything I can do about this?Thanks

Our Response:
Not really. If the school's policies have been flouted the head/management can do as they choose. Fees at private schools are usually payable in advance and are not refunded if a child leaves early. If you want to take a private action against the school you should consult a solicitor.
LawAndParents - 12-Jun-18 @ 10:45 AM
Hi my child has been excluded permanently from a private school on the basis of myself putting a post on social media regarding the way he's been treated recently. The letter from the head stated. Posting on social media to give the school a bad name your child is not welcome to come back even though they have the full fees for the full term. There is only 5 weeks left and he leave the school anyway as year 6. Is there anything I can do about this? Thanks
Danny - 9-Jun-18 @ 12:23 AM
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