Information for England

Schools can discipline pupils if they break the rules. The school behaviour policy should set out how they will do this. For ongoing challenging behaviour, or more serious ‘one-off’ offences, pupils may get a fixed period (temporary) exclusion, or a permanent exclusion.

Only the head teacher, or acting head, can exclude a pupil.




The school will usually ring to tell you your child is being excluded and ask you to take them home. The head must also write to you straight away (law says ‘without delay’). The letter or email must say:

  • why your child is excluded
  • how long the exclusion is for, or that it is permanent
  • when they will be allowed back in school (for a fixed period exclusion)
  • how their education will continue while they are not in school
  • how you can challenge the exclusion.

You can write to the school governing body to give your views. You can also ask to meet with them. For longer fixed term exclusions, the governors will automatically meet. Their role is to check that the head followed the exclusion procedures properly and made the right decision.





For an exclusion longer than five and a half days the governors have the power to allow your child back into school. If the governors do not reverse a permanent exclusion, you can ask for an Independent Review Panel (IRP) to look at the decision. The Independent Review Panel can ask the governors to reconsider the exclusion. If your child is disabled, you can also make a disability discrimination claim to the First Tier Tribunal for Special Educational Needs and Disability.

Common queries on exclusion

Whenever a child is sent home because of their behaviour, even for a short time, this must be recorded as an exclusion. The school shouldn’t ask you to take your son or daughter home just to ‘cool off’ after an incident, or because there is no adult support available. This is an unofficial exclusion, which is illegal, even if you agree to it.

Sometimes a part-time timetable can be helpful, for example, to ease a pupil back into school after a long absence. This should only be done with your agreement. The school should discuss with you when the arrangement will be reconsidered and when your child can return to school full-time. A part-time timetable should be to help your child. It should not be put in place because the school does not have enough support. Unless they are ill, your child should be in school for the full school day, like other pupils of their age.

The head can exclude your son/daughter if the offence is considered too serious for lesser punishments such as detention. However if your child’s behaviour is related to SEN or disability, the school should first consider whether there are better ways of managing behaviour or giving extra help. If your child needs more help than the school can give, they may need an Education Health and Care (EHC) plan.

Yes, if the head decides your child has seriously broken the rules and that they would be a danger to others if they stayed in school.  However, exclusion should always be a last resort and the school should take into account a pupil’s SEN or disability if this was a factor in the exclusion. If there are concerns about your child’s behaviour, an early review of their EHC plan should be arranged.

The rules governing exclusions from schools, academies and pupil referral units in England are contained in the s52 Education Act 2002.

If your child has been excluded, the applicable Statutory Guidance is “Exclusions from maintained schools, academies and pupil referral units – A guide for those with legal responsibilities in relation to exclusion” (September 2012).

Note: A 2014 version of the Exclusions Guidance was issued by the Department for Education earlier this year before being withdrawn to address issues with process. The current guidance to be followed is the above Guidance, which was last updated in September 2017.

  • Please note that this page is only applicable to those pupils who are attending school in England; it applies to all children attending a school including those below or above compulsory school age, such as those attending nursery classes or 6th forms.
  • Section 52(1) Education Act 2002states that the head teacher of a Local Authority maintained school may exclude a pupil from the school for a fixed period or permanently.

What are the different types of exclusion?

is for a specific period of time. A pupil may be excluded for one or more fixed periods (up to a maximum of 45 school days in a single academic year). In exceptional cases, usually where further evidence has come to light, a fixed period exclusion may be extended or converted to a permanent exclusion.

Pupils whose lunchtime behaviour is disruptive may be excluded from the school premises for the duration of the lunchtime period. An exclusion that takes place over a lunchtime would be counted as half a school day. The legal requirements relating to exclusion, such as the head teacher’s duty to notify parents, apply in all cases.

involves the child being removed from the school roll. However, the head teacher must not remove a pupil’s name from the school Admissions Register until the outcome of the Independent Review Panel (if this route is followed by parents).








In what circumstances can a child be excluded?

A pupil must only be excluded on disciplinary grounds. The decision to exclude must be:

  • lawful;
  • rational;
  • reasonable;
  • fair;
  • proportionate.

The behaviour of pupils outside of school can be considered as grounds for exclusion. The school’s behaviour policy will set out when a pupil’s behaviour outside of school premises may lead to disciplinary sanctions.

A decision to exclude a pupil permanently should only be taken:

“in response to a serious breach or persistent breaches of the school’s behaviour policy; and where allowing the pupil to remain in school would seriously harm the education or welfare of the pupil or others in the school”.

When reaching the decision to exclude a child, the head teacher must apply the civil standard of proof, i.e. ‘on the balance of probabilities’, which means it is more likely than not that a fact is true.

Under the Equality Act 2010 schools must not discriminate against, harass or victimise pupils because of their:

  • sex;
  • race;
  • disability;
  • religion or belief;
  • sexual orientation;
  • because of a pregnancy / maternity; or
  • because of a gender reassignment.

For disabled children, this includes a duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to policies and practices.

It is unlawful to exclude or to increase the severity of an exclusion 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. It would also be unlawful to exclude for a reason such as:

  • academic attainment / ability;
  • the action of a pupil’s parents;
  • the failure of a pupil to meet specific conditions before they are reinstated such as attend a reintegration meeting.

However a head teacher could lawfully exclude a child for:

  • repeated failure to follow academic instruction;
  • failure to complete a behavioural sanction, e.g. a detention (a decision to change the sanction to exclusion would not automatically be unlawful);
  • repeated and persistent breaches of the school’s behavioural policy. Even if the offence that has immediately led to the exclusion would not have normally constituted a serious enough breach on its own, a child can still be excluded if it is part of wider pattern of behaviour.

These duties need to be taken into account when deciding whether to exclude a pupil.


Formally arranged part-time timetables may be necessary as a temporary measure in exceptional circumstances to meet a pupil’s needs, but must not be used as a disciplinary sanction or as a long term solution.

What are the factors a head teacher should consider before deciding to exclude?

The decision on whether to exclude is for a head teacher to take. Pupils should be given an opportunity to present their case before a decision is made.

Contributing Factors

When considering whether to exclude, head teachers should take account of any contributing factors identified after an incident of poor behaviour has occurred – for example, where it comes to light that a pupil has suffered bereavement, has mental health issues or has been subject to bullying.

Early Intervention

The Statutory Guidance is clear that early intervention should be used to address underlying causes of disruptive behaviour. This should include:

  • an assessment of whether appropriate support is in place to support any special educational needs or disability that a pupil may have;
  • the use of a multi-agency assessment for pupils who demonstrate persistent disruptive behaviour.

Where a pupil has received multiple exclusions or is approaching the legal limit of 45 school days of fixed period exclusions in an academic year, head teachers should consider whether exclusion is providing an effective sanction.