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School Exclusions and the Law

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 22 Jan 2018 |
 
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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[Add a Comment]
Hello my 14 year old son has ADHD and the school are aware of this but I feel he is being punsihed in the wrong way, can they isolate him for whole days without breaks? And then keep him for an hours detention following the whole day isolation? I feel isolation is too much for him and I have explained this to the school but they are very difficult to get them to hear my feelings
H - 22-Jan-18 @ 7:54 AM
SLA1602 - Your Question:
Hi,My 8yr old son was excluded on Friday. His exclusion letter states it is a half day exclusion as he was present for morning registration. My son was excluded at 10:06am. We have rejected the letter but the headteacher says the letter is correct. My son has been excluded multiple times officially and unofficially and we are applying for EHCP (he has ASD and ADHD) so this evidence when correct all helps our case. Please can you confirm if half day is correct?

Our Response:
Yes, even a lunchtime exclusion is considered to be the equivalent of half a day.
LawAndParents - 16-Jan-18 @ 2:15 PM
Hi, My 8yr old son was excluded on Friday. His exclusion letter states it is a half day exclusion as he was present for morning registration. My son was excluded at 10:06am. We have rejected the letter but the headteacher says the letter is correct. My son has been excluded multiple times officially and unofficially and we are applying for EHCP (he has ASD and ADHD) so this evidence when correct all helps our case. Please can you confirm if half day is correct?
SLA1602 - 13-Jan-18 @ 4:53 PM
My sons primary school have just decided to change their policy on walking to and from school for year 6 students. My child has been happily walking to a from school since the beginning of this school year with out issues, he is a very responsible 11 year old and enjoys being trusted to make his own way to and from school, he has never been late either getting to school or coming home. The school has only given 2 weeks notice of this change in their policy and the reason is because some children from the local secondary school have caused some trouble with some younger children from this school. The school is saying that they will not release our son from the school unless someone turns up to collect him, and that if he turns up to school unaccompanied he will be refused entry. My question is, is this legal, can any school hold my child hostage and threaten to not allow him into school if unaccompanied, I can’t find any information on this subject. The school even said if did not like their policy we could always take him to another school. Regards Joe
Joe - 4-Jan-18 @ 8:44 AM
My sons primary school have just decided to change their policy on walking to and from school for year 6 students. My child has been happily walking to a from school since the beginning of this school year with out issues, he is a very responsible 11 year old and enjoys being trusted to make his own way to and from school, he has never been late either getting to school or coming home. The school has only given 2 weeks notice of this change in their policy and the reason is because some children from the local secondary school have caused some trouble with some younger children from this school. The school is saying that they will not release our son from the school unless someone turns up to collect him, and that if he turns up to school unaccompanied he will be refused entry. My question is, is this legal, can any school hold my child hostage and threaten to not allow him into school if unaccompanied, I can’t find any information on this subject. The school even said if did not like their policy we could always take him to another school. Regards Joe
Joe - 4-Jan-18 @ 8:09 AM
My sons primary school have just decided to change their policy on walking to and from school for year 6 students. My child has been happily walking to a from school since the beginning of this school year with out issues, he is a very responsible 11 year old and enjoys being trusted to make his own way to and from school, he has never been late either getting to school or coming home. The school has only given 2 weeks notice of this change in their policy and the reason is because some children from the local secondary school have caused some trouble with some younger children from this school. The school is saying that they will not release our son from the school unless someone turns up to collect him, and that if he turns up to school unaccompanied he will be refused entry. My question is, is this legal, can any school hold my child hostage and threaten to not allow him into school if unaccompanied, I can’t find any information on this subject. The school even said if did not like their policy we could always take him to another school. Regards Joe
Joe - 3-Jan-18 @ 9:59 PM
My 14 year old son refuses pe he has never done it his teacher puts him in isolation for 6hours meaning he misses other lessons is this legal. Isolation room is locked even fire exit door how long should a child be in isolation.school must think it's a borstal have I got the right to refuse him going to isolation
Mezza - 21-Dec-17 @ 10:31 PM
My daughter was attacked at school by another girl. Teachers intervened and one got injured. They were both given a 5 day exclusion while the school gathered witness statements. School have now issued a permenant exclusion and we are to attend the governing panel in 15 days. School have not given me any more information about the incident other than when I went to collect her from school, have said that I will receive copies of the statements 5 days before the panel meeting. My daughter is adamant that she was attacked, defended herself and that she did not harm any teachers. I have asked for copies of statements etc but they have said I have to wait til the 5 days. Any advice please?
Jam - 15-Nov-17 @ 9:23 AM
Hi, my child got fixed exclusion for fighting a girl who bullied her at school. I know that is a breach of behaviour. I understand the consequeces but I think the school hasn’t been fair. The other child also fought my child but has nit been excluded whilst my child has three days of isolation and three days of exclusion. To add to this she will not go to her prom. I think my child has been treated unfairly. Please advice .
Nana - 6-Nov-17 @ 10:25 PM
A 10 year old boy sexually assaulted my daughter. It was a violent serious attack. The school were informed by another child's mother. They asked my daughter but she said nothing happened. The mother told the school to ask her daughter. She told the CPO and the headteacher that this boy pinned my daughter against a wall and thrusted against her until she cried. One boy shouted that my daughter was being raped. The school made this witmess write down the word sex and rape as she did not umderstand what they meant.That happened 8 months ago, we only found out this week. It turns out this boy jas beem sexually abusing my daughter since. Forcing her to kiss him and asking for blow jobs and tosee her genitals. He has now talen to slapping her accross the face. My daughter is self harming because of the trauma. We complained abput the slap but the school ignored us at first so we took a social worker and they did a report amd said they put measures in place to safeguard her. 2 days later the same boy attacked her again. The police are now involved but the school is trying to intimidate the witness and are trying to isolate us from any support. We actually habe evidence as we spoke to our MP and the school have requested they do not get involved. They have sent her an email full of lies... This boy has alreadyphysically assaulted both my children and my nephew and around 5or 6 other children, yet he is still in school and still attacking children... How many times can a child sexually assault abuse and physically assault someone until they are removed. I cannot send my children to school as he knows we contacted the police and they are afraid he will attack them and the school will do nothing. We know that children in the school are no longer reporting as nothing ever happens... What can we do? Why should my children be denied an education in a safe emvironment free from sexual and physical abuse because one boy is terrorising the whole year? Any help would be appreciated as the school are trying to imtimidate us into backing off..
MF - 27-Oct-17 @ 8:19 PM
JusticeNeeded - Your Question:
My son aged 12, Year 8 as of September 2017 reported a teacher for touching his genitals over his trousers at the end of Year 7. The day before Year 8 was to commence, Sept 2017 I was informed via email that he wasn’t due at school as per his peers on the first day of the new term. A meeting was had on this day, informing me that my son was to be given a fixed 5 day exclusion as they formed the idea it was malicious. Albeit another student saw half of what happened, and 2 others saw the teacher by my son at the time. On day 5 of the exclusion another meeting was had. The headteacher wanted to question my son again over his allegation. I refused, as per legislation I believe my son should not have to go through what happened again. All investigations I had been told were complete. The headmaster then changed my sons 5 day exclusion to a permanent exclusion. After a few weeks my son was offered a ‘managed move’ however after 2 1/2 days I was called to the School and told his placement there was over as there was talk at the new school of what happened to my son at the previous school. My son is an A grade student who has never been in trouble at school and nothing but excellent school reports. He still has no schooling provision. The original school are stating he needs to go to a PRU. My son has never been in trouble and I fear for him going to such a unit, having worked in them myself. What Can I do? My son is become seriously depressed over this and just so desperate to be in school. Any advice would be hugely appreciated. Thank you!

Our Response:
We can't really help with specific cases like this as there's obviously a lot of information we don't have. It sounds like at this stage you need some kind of professional or legal advice - the Child law advice service is a low cost option for this
LawAndParents - 20-Oct-17 @ 10:31 AM
My son aged 12, Year 8 as of September 2017 reported a teacher for touching his genitals over his trousers at the end of Year 7. The day before Year 8 was to commence, Sept 2017 I was informed via email that he wasn’t due at school as per his peers on the first day of the new term. A meeting was had on this day, informing me that my son was to be given a fixed 5 day exclusion as they formed the idea it was malicious. Albeit another student saw half of what happened, and 2 others saw the teacher by my son at the time. On day 5 of the exclusion another meeting was had. The headteacher wanted to question my son again over his allegation. I refused, as per legislation I believe my son should not have to go through what happened again. All investigations I had been told were complete. The headmaster then changed my sons 5 day exclusion to a permanent exclusion. After a few weeks my son was offered a ‘managed move’ however after 2 1/2 days I was called to the School and told his placement there was over as there was talk at the new school of what happened to my son at the previous school. My son is an A grade student who has never been in trouble at school and nothing but excellent school reports. He still has no schooling provision. The original school are stating he needs to go to a PRU. My son has never been in trouble and I fear for him going to such a unit, having worked in them myself. What Can I do? My son is become seriously depressed over this and just so desperate to be in school. Any advice would be hugely appreciated. Thank you!
JusticeNeeded - 17-Oct-17 @ 5:13 PM
Kit442000 - Your Question:
My son (13) was excluded today for 1 day and will not be permitted to attend school untilI go in for a meeting (I work full time and this may be tricky).Anyway he has been excluded for running across the road after school and not listening to the teacher when he tried to speak to him. They called my father to inform me of the exclusion (not sure why). Is this exclusion for 1 day even lawful?

Our Response:
You can check this in your school's policy documents and yes a school can give a one day exclusion. What exactly are you suggesting is the unlawful part of this? (The behaviour of pupils outside of school can be considered as grounds for exclusion)
LawAndParents - 13-Oct-17 @ 3:30 PM
My son (13) was excluded today for 1 day and will not be permitted to attend school untilI go in for a meeting (I work full time and this may be tricky). Anyway he has been excluded for running across the road after school and not listening to the teacher when he tried to speak to him.They called my father to inform me of the exclusion (not sure why).Is this exclusion for 1 day even lawful?
Kit442000 - 13-Oct-17 @ 1:25 AM
@Kiwi - it might not be "allowed" but your child is clearly obnoxious and has no manners. As a parent, I would be ashamed of my child if they behaved in this way.
TeachHimSomeManners - 6-Oct-17 @ 3:26 PM
Kiwi - Your Question:
My son's school have called stating a member of staff physically life's my 13 yr old old of class as he refused to spit he's chewing gum out.then the ta and my son had words.My son was asked to leave the class then refused so was physically picked up by the male ta.Is this allowed ???

Our Response:
It's not standard policy but if he refused to leave, he may have the backing of the head and the governors.
LawAndParents - 6-Oct-17 @ 3:24 PM
My son's school have called stating a member of staff physically life's my 13 yr old old of class as he refused to spit he's chewing gum out .then the ta and my son had words .My son was asked to leave the class then refused so was physically picked up by the male ta .Is this allowed ???
Kiwi - 6-Oct-17 @ 3:17 PM
Hi I have just had a call from the school saying the ta physically picked my 13 yr old up and removed him as he wasn't removing chewing gum from he's mouth and point blank refused . My son and teaching assistant exchanged words and he was was refusing to leave the class .So the ta physically liftedmy son out is this allowed ??? I'm livid my son has adhdand auditory processingdifficulties.
Kiwi - 6-Oct-17 @ 3:14 PM
concerned mum - Your Question:
Do Universities legally have access to school disciplinary/behaviour records as part of the application process?Thanking you in advance.

Our Response:
We don't know this sorry.
LawAndParents - 4-Oct-17 @ 11:06 AM
Do Universities legally have access to school disciplinary/behaviour records as part of the application process? Thanking you in advance.
concerned mum - 2-Oct-17 @ 7:34 PM
My son has been excluded permanently. I'm appealing and I am awaiting a date for the IRP meeting. My question is that can a school or academy send a child home to cool off under any circumstances, I.e while an incident is investigated?? I have an MP supporting me who based on my child's case is involving the Secretary of State for Education, the Childrens Commissioner for England and Her Majesty's Chief Inspector for Schools. From what I have read it is unlawful but through a different parent I have spoken to this morning, the academy I am dealing with say that they can send a child home for one day without it having to be an official fixed term exclusion while they investigate an incident. Can you confirm if this is correct please.
Emma - 6-Sep-17 @ 9:40 AM
My son has been in and out of trouble since primary school and even kicked out of kids club that I paid for.He has a problem with authority and will buck against any form of discipline. He has had mentors and help along the way but the low level disruptive behaviour is pushing the teachers to breaking.He responds to teachers he likes but does not respect those that he doesn't.He is making bad choices with his peer group they are all naughty and disrespectful.He is constantly on report and now excluded for three days with a meeting on his return in September.He takes no responsibility for his actions and blames others.I'm so scared he will end up permanently excluded and then in one of those units where he will meet kids in real difficult situations.I have asked for observation by educational behavioural specialist but just got a review by his teachers he is liked by some and not by others .He knows how to behave but is choosing not to.He is now being pulled up for every little thing as if they just want him out and I want to fight this.This incident was on the return from a school trip where they misbehaved on the bus and they have used the following Inappropriate behaviour on a school trip Bringing school into disrepute Dangerous behaviour on a coach Beyond the reasonable control of the school I wasn't called until the following day at .4.45pm which went to answering machine with no number to call back and received a letter that came home with my son. The last time he was excluded it was for "bringing in banned substances ". This was a box of stink bombs which he did not let off and got 2 days at another school What shall I do?
Bonny - 14-Jul-17 @ 11:06 PM
Hi my son was permanently excluded from school 2 months ago for having A small kitchen knife in his school bag never threatened to use it ! And only now he might have a new school ! He's had no work sent home or any tuition offered
Lewis - 8-Jul-17 @ 6:05 PM
MG - Your Question:
My son has asd and has refused to go into class for the last 4 months and has had fixed exclusions during this time for behaviour ie shutting himself in a room and not allowing anyone in , for a short time around 8 weeks he had people sitting in with him, hes now being left unattended in a room and is only checked on by ta or mentors throughout the day, I recently had his iep meeting and they are now saying that not enough work is being done or observations to say he is meeting his expected standards for this year, is it illegal to leave him in a room all day by himself considering he has left school grounds and is known for going off without telling anyone, and when ofsted came to the school my son was sent to another school which we are partnered with for the 2 days they were in

Our Response:
It might be worth getting a professional to look into this on your behalf. If your son has ASD, it suggests he needs additional help with coping. There are no real limits relating to isolation except that schools should not leave pupils in isolation "longer than necessary"
LawAndParents - 29-Jun-17 @ 12:10 PM
My son has asd and hasrefused to go into class for the last 4 months and has had fixed exclusions during this time for behaviour ie shutting himself in a room and not allowing anyone in , for a short time around 8 weeks he had people sitting in with him, hes now being left unattended in a room and is only checked on by ta or mentors throughout the day, i recently had his iep meeting and they are now saying that not enough work is being done or observations to say he is meeting his expected standards for this year, is it illegal to leave him in a room all day by himself considering he has left school grounds and is known for going off without telling anyone, and when ofsted came to the school my son was sent to another school which we are partnered with for the 2 days they were in
MG - 28-Jun-17 @ 12:51 PM
My son is in isolation for a poor learning attitude so is missing academic lessons is this allowed. I am thinking to keep him off school during this period as I do not think Isolation is warranted here.Is this illegal
Tululah - 23-Jun-17 @ 7:45 AM
My son has been excluded four days in a row for refusing to take his hood down (he has had his hair cut short and hates it and is convinced he is going to be bullied because of it). The school are now talking of excluding him permanently. Is this allowed?
Nicc - 9-Jun-17 @ 8:57 AM
My daughter is going to an Islamic school she's paid for her GCSEs but they have been on study leave since Easter holidays but the teacher is demanding we pay for the 3rd term fee or my daughter can't sit her exams but she only goes in to school to do her exam and then back home why pay the fees but can she be excluded from her exams please can some one help me with this.
Taz - 2-Jun-17 @ 8:03 PM
Lahmin - Your Question:
My child walked out of school twice without permission to go to the dentist and also missed an exam which she will be charged for. I have a meeting with the teachers tomorrow, do you know the outcomes of what it could be?

Our Response:
This depends on the school's policy really, there are no specified outcomes for particular actions.
LawAndParents - 25-May-17 @ 12:49 PM
My child walked out of school twice without permission to go to the dentist and also missed an exam which she will be charged for. I have a meeting with the teachers tomorrow, do you know the outcomes of what it could be?
Lahmin - 23-May-17 @ 8:38 PM
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