What should I do if my child is excluded from school?

If your child misbehaves, their headteacher has the power to exclude them. This is the case whether the bad behaviour happened inside or outside the school.

If your child has been excluded, the school needs to inform you as soon as possible and then write to you to let you know why they have been excluded, how long the exclusion will last and how you can challenge the exclusion.

Exclusions can take effect immediately, but the school should give you enough time to make arrangements for your child to be collected.

Types of exclusion

There are two types of exclusion:

  • fixed period (suspension); and
  • permanent (expulsion).

Fixed period exclusion

A pupil cannot be excluded from school for more than 45 days in a year unless the exclusion is permanent. This applies even if they have changed schools.

During a fixed period exclusion, schools should set them work – and mark it – for the first five school days. If the exclusion is for longer than five school days, the school must organise suitable full-time education from the sixth school day, eg, at a pupil referral unit.

Permanent exclusion

If your child is permanently excluded, your local council must arrange full-time education from the sixth school day. The school or local council need to inform you of any alternative education they arrange. It’s your duty to make sure your child attends.

Complaints about alternative education

If alternative education hasn’t been arranged within five days, or you’re unhappy with the education provided, you can complain to the school for fixed period exclusions, or the local council for permanent exclusions. Further complaints can be made to the Department for Education (DfE), although you’ll need to prove that you followed the school or council’s complaints procedure before doing this.

Conditions of exclusion

If your child has been excluded, they’re not allowed into the school grounds until the exclusion period ends. You also have a duty to ensure that for the first five school days of an exclusion your child doesn’t appear in a public place during normal school hours without a good reason. If you fail to abide by this duty, you might face prosecution.

When exclusion is appropriate

When deciding whether to exclude a child, the head teacher must apply the civil standard of proof, ie, ‘on the balance of probabilities’. The decision to exclude must be:

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

A child should only be permanently excluded 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.

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.

Schools must not exclude or increase the severity of an exclusion for a non-disciplinary reason, such as academic attainment or ability, or the actions of the parents.

The child must be given the chance to present their side of the story before the decision to exclude is made. Schools should also consider whether there were any factors that may have contributed to the poor behaviour (eg, bereavement, mental health issues or bullying).

Challenging exclusions

You can go to the school’s governing body to challenge the exclusion if your child has been excluded for more than five days, or if the exclusion means they’ll miss a public exam or national curriculum test.

If the exclusion is for five days or less, you can still ask the governors to hear your views but they can’t overturn the headteacher’s decision.

If your child has been permanently excluded, you’ll be invited to a review meeting with the school’s governors within 15 school days.

After you’ve made your challenge, the governing body must notify you, the head teacher and the local authority of their decision, and the reasons for their decision, in writing and without delay. The governing body should outline the reasons for their decision in a detailed enough manner for all parties to understand why the decision was made.

If the governors refuse to overturn the exclusion, you can ask for an independent review by your local council (or academy trust if the school’s an academy). The governors will inform you of the process you need to follow.

Further appeals over the handling of your case can be made to the Local Government Ombudsman (or the Education Funding Agency if the school’s an academy or free school). They can’t, however, overturn the exclusion.

Article written by...
Nicola Laver LLB
Nicola Laver LLB

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A non-practising solicitor, Nicola is also a fully qualified journalist. For the past 20 years, she has worked as a legal journalist, editor and author.