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Information on school exclusions

What is a school exclusion?

Exclusion happens when a school makes the decision not to allow a child or young person to continue to attend the school for either a fixed period or permanently.

Why was my child excluded from school?

Your child can only be excluded from school for a disciplinary reason (e.g. in response to problems with your child’s behaviour). However, the exact set of behaviours or actions that result in an exclusion is a decision made by the head teacher of the school.

The head teacher may not make a decision to exclude based on academic performance or ability, nor can they exclude children and young people simply because they have additional needs or disabilities which the school does not feel able to meet.

What is the process for school exclusion?

Once the head teacher of the school makes a decision to exclude your child, they must write to you and give you the following information:

  • the reasons for the exclusion
  • the length of the exclusion
  • your right to put forward your case about the exclusion to the governing board, how you should go about doing this and how your child can be involved
  • (when relevant) what alternative provision will be provided from the sixth day of a fixed-period exclusion.

The exclusion can begin from the day of the head teacher’s decision, but they must take account of their legal duty of care when sending a pupil home following an exclusion.

Can I challenge a decision to exclude?

The first thing to do if you disagree with the decision to exclude your child is to speak with the head teacher and explain to them why you think the exclusion is unfair.

If you are still unsatisfied with the decision, you may request that the exclusion be reviewed by the schools’ governing body. The process for this is different depending on the total number of days that your child has been excluded for in a term:

  • Up to 5 days: The governing body must consider your views on the exclusion. You should normally do this in writing - school governors do not have to meet with you but you may request that they do so. Governors will decide on whether or not they agree with the head teacher’s decision to exclude. They do not have the power to reinstate your child but can add a note to your child’s educational record of their findings.
  • 5½ - 15 days: You may request to meet with the governing body. This meeting must be held within 50 school days of the exclusion. If, following the meeting, the governing body disagree with the exclusion, they may decide to reinstate your  child . Should this happen after your  child  has already returned to school, a record of this decision could be added to your child’s school record.
  • 15 + days: A meeting with the governing body will be arranged automatically within fifteen days of the exclusion being made. In this meeting you will be able to make your case about why you think the head teacher’s decision to exclude is unfair. Following the meeting, the school governors will decide on whether or not to reinstate your child.

If your child has been permanently excluded and the decision of the governing body is not to reinstate, you may request that the decision of the governing body be reviewed by an independent panel.

What should I do if I think my child has been excluded because of special educational needs and/or disabilities?

Under the Equalities Act 2010, it is illegal for a school to discriminate against a child or young person on the basis that they have a disability. If you believe this to be the case, you should make your views known to the head teacher and governing body of the excluding school.

If your child has been permanently excluded, and the head teacher and governing body have refused to reinstate them, you can refer your case to an independent review panel. If you believe that your child’s special educational needs and/or disabilities are relevant to the exclusion, you can request that a Special Educational Needs (SEN) expert accompany you to the review panel to provide advice. You can request this even if your child has not previously been recognised as having special educational needs or disabilities.

For both fixed-term and permanent exclusions, if you believe that your child has been discriminated against because of their special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND), you can refer your case to the First-Tier (SEND) Tribunal within six months of the exclusion. This is an independent legal body that will make a binding decision on the legality of the exclusion. If your child has been permanently excluded, this can be done instead of, or in addition to, the independent review panel.     

Who can help me with impartial information and advice?

For more information on the school exclusion process and your rights, you can read the ‘guide for parents/carers’ at the end of the Government’s statutory guidance on school exclusions.

There are also several organisations that can provide independent information and advice on exclusions:

  • Coram Children’s Legal Centre provide independent information and run an education law helpline - 03000 115 142 (Monday to Wednesday from 10 am to 1 pm during term time)

  • ACE Education provide independent information and run an adviceline - 0300 0115 142 (Monday to Wednesday from 10am to 1pm during term time)

  • Westminster Information, Advice and Support Service (IASS) provides advice to families of children and young people with special education needs and/or disabilities (SEND) - 020 7641 5355 or
  • National Autistic Society (NAS) School Exclusion Service offers advice and information to parents of children and young people on the autism spectrum on all aspects of school exclusion - 0808 800 4002 or 
Last Updated 11/12/2019

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