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School Exclusions and the Law

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 2 Apr 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 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
Gabbon10- Your Question:
My daughter has been put in isolation for her behaviour and we have been told she is to come in to school 1pm-5pm instead of the normal 9-3. Me and my wife are both working in the morning. Can school just decide these hours. And should this not be recorded as a half day exclusion? Thanks in advance

Our Response:
Check the school's behaviour policy. It's unsual for a child to be asked to remain at home for part of the daywithout a formal exclusion. It may be worth talking to someone from your local education authority for more information as we don't have details of the type of school/the age of your daughter etc
LawAndParents - 8-Jun-18 @ 1:44 PM
My daughter has been put in isolation for her behaviour and we have been told she is to come in to school 1pm-5pm instead of the normal 9-3. Me and my wife are both working in the morning. Can school just decide these hours. And should this not be recorded as a half day exclusion? Thanks in advance
Gabbon10 - 6-Jun-18 @ 7:10 PM
AJ - Your Question:
I wonder if you could advise please.My son in his previous primary school complained to us regularly about bullying (Other kids punching him, hitting him on the playground etc) rough behaviour and even examples of mild racist comments to him. We complained to the Head who never seemed to want to put anything in writing and always insisted on meetings he would ask us verbally to attend when we picked up our son from school. There was constant low level disruption in the class and we also complained about this. Same 'informal' response never with written records or follow up.It appeared to us (And other parents) that the rough kids who's parents were on the ParentTeachers committee never received warnings or exclusions. Pupils who were for example, in care for which the school received additional pupil premium funding - never received exclusions.It became evident that the Head started to not want to engage our concerns and certainly not to allow them to escalate to more formal levels or written records.Our son is mixed race and has been brought up in a multicultural environment. We were called in to the school to be told that our son had used a racist term and that he would receive a temporary exclusion. He denied this and there was no evidence or witnesses other than the boy (Pupil premium and former bully who we had complained about ) So we told them we didn't agree and that we believed our son would not have done this. He was excluded anyway and no details of appeal were given.We eventually moved him to another primary school that when we looked round, seemed good. However, the record from the previous school we suspect has prejudiced their attitude towards him and he seems to be labelled as a problem child for very minor things constantly.A year later we also applied to the school where our daughter is so they could be at the same school - only to be told that his record shows he has been excluded and is disruptive.We are worried that this record (that we dispute) will prejudice all future opportunities and feel helpless to challenge the accuracy of this or how to stop it causing harm when he is applying for secondary school. What is the legal situation and how can we have this record removed or amended ? Surely this isn't legal?

Our Response:
If you do not feel the first primary school acted properly in the way it excluded your son (you are supposed to be told in a letter how you can challenge a decision etc) then you might consider legal action. We don't know whether you can change a child's school record but talking to your LEA (education welfare team) will help you establish what you can do. A complaint to the Department for Education might be your last resort after talking to the other bodies.
LawAndParents - 15-May-18 @ 11:12 AM
My son as ADHD and as now been excluded from school twice now for violence behaviour due to been bullied for the last two years looks like he is going to be permanently excluded this coming week this has been reported to the school on numerous occasions but the bullies keep doing it and the school only react when my son as an out burst the school as known about his adhd and have done no assessments please advise don’t know where to turn as the school is blaming my son for all of this I know he is no angel
Georgie - 12-May-18 @ 7:36 PM
Binns - Your Question:
My son, who is diagnosed with ADHD, has been given a choice of permanent exclusion or a managed move. Should the school have a policy or protocol in place to deal with this? Also, is a managed move merely an unofficial way of permanently excluding a child, without it ending up as part of the school's statistics?Should the LEA be involved in the process, as I am concerned that my son could end up without a school place, if a suitable alternative is not found. Furthermore, we live in a London borough and my son is in a Surrey school, so how does that affect the process?

Our Response:
You will be able to find the policy from your LEA and yes they would normally be involved in the process if a school move is recommended. The school's policy will be available if you ask the school for it. If the choice is permanent exclusion or a managed move it may have been suggested for the benefit of your child rather than for the school's statistics
LawAndParents - 11-May-18 @ 1:49 PM
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