An introduction to school exclusions

All exclusions are governed by the Department for Education's statutory exclusions guidance, which was published in 2017. This guidance in binding on maintained schools A school that is funded by and under the control of the local authority A government organisation with jurisdiction over a local area such as a borough or county, often called a local council. Where multiple authorities overlap, the local education authority (LEA) has responsibility for excluded children. . , academies, alternative provision An education institution for students outside of mainstream and special schooling. Includes Pupil Referral Units and annexes to mainstream schools. and special schools. Anyone departing from the requirements of the guidance would need to provide a compelling reason to do so.

All exclusions must be recorded by the school. Every exclusion must be confirmed to the parents in writing with notice of the reasons for the exclusion. All exclusions must be for disciplinary reasons, and the family can always challenge an exclusion if they believe it was discriminatory.

There are five types of exclusion. 

  1. Fixed term exclusions
  2. Permanent exclusions
  3. Internal exclusions
  4. Informal exclusions
  5. Off-rolling

1. Fixed Term Exclusions

A fixed term exclusion (sometimes written as “ FTE "Fixed term exclusion": an exclusion for a set number of days, after which the young person will be reintegrated into the school community. ”) is a time limited exclusion.

The effect of a fixed term exclusion is to remove the young person from the school’s campus for a set period. During this time, the young person is not allowed in public.

It can only be imposed by the headteacher of a school and can only be imposed for disciplinary reasons.

A fixed term exclusion must come with a start and end date at the time it is imposed, although it can be set to start in the future, and the term of the exclusion does not need to be continuous.

Fixed term exclusions can be for a part of a day or for a period of days. They are limited to 45 school days in one academic year.

A fixed term exclusion cannot be extended into a longer fixed term exclusion or converted into a permanent exclusion An exclusion that results in the young person being removed from the school register and barred from the school’s campus indefinitely. .

For the first five school days of a fixed term exclusion the school should send work home for the young person and mark it if it is returned. From the sixth school day of exclusion, alternative education provision must be arranged. These days are cumulative throughout a single school term, so for example the sixth one-day fixed term exclusion for a young person in one term must result in alternative education provision being made for that day. This will normally be in a pupil referral unit.

A fixed term exclusion that takes the total number of days a young person has been excluded for to five or less in a single term cannot be challenged unless it involves alleged discrimination.

A fixed term exclusion that takes the total number of days a young person has been excluded for to between six and 15 in a single school term must be reviewed by the school’s governors if a request is made by the family. This review must begin within 50 school days of the exclusion.

A fixed term exclusion that takes the total number of days a young person has been excluded for to 16 or more in a single term must be reviewed by the school's governors, regardless of whether the family opt to be involved in the review. The review must begin within 15 school days of an exclusion.

The governors will have three options; to reinstate the young person immediately, to reinstate them from a specified date or to uphold the exclusion. The governors must still make a decision even if the exclusion has come to an end by the time they meet. If they reinstate after the exclusion has ended, the young person’s educational record must be updated to reflect this decision.

There is no further avenue for reviewing fixed term exclusions other than a claim for disability discrimination in the First Tier Tribunal A judicial body that will hear appeals against exclusions if the family believe the young person has been the victim of discrimination on the basis of disability. , a claim for discrimination A challenge against an exclusion in the First Tier Tribunal A judicial body that will hear appeals against exclusions if the family believe the young person has been the victim of discrimination on the basis of disability. or County Court, alleging that the young person has been discriminated against. in the County Court or a claim for judicial review A type of court case in which a judge is asked to review the decision of a public body An organisation that performs a public function with public funds. Includes schools (includes academies and free-schools, but not independent or private schools), CAMHS, the local authority and the police. and correct errors in decision making. in the High Court A Court that hears cases of judicial review A type of court case in which a judge is asked to review the decision of a public body An organisation that performs a public function with public funds. Includes schools (includes academies and free-schools, but not independent or private schools), CAMHS, the local authority and the police. and correct errors in decision making. . It has a range of powers to order a public body An organisation that performs a public function with public funds. Includes schools (includes academies and free-schools, but not independent or private schools), CAMHS, the local authority and the police. , such as a school or independent review panel, to rectify an error in their decision making. .

2. Permanent Exclusions

A permanent exclusion An exclusion that results in the young person being removed from the school register and barred from the school’s campus indefinitely. results in the young person’s name being removed from the school’s register and the young person being banned from the campus indefinitely.

A permanent exclusion An exclusion that results in the young person being removed from the school register and barred from the school’s campus indefinitely. must be reviewed by the school's governors, regardless of whether the family opt to be involved in the review. The review must begin within 15 school days of the exclusion. The governors will have three options; to reinstate the young person immediately, to reinstate them from a specified date or to uphold the exclusion.

If the governors uphold the exclusion, the family can request an independent review panel (“IRP”) within 15 school days. The independent review panel is made up of people independent of all the parties to the exclusion. The panel can recommend reconsideration of the exclusion, quash the exclusion and direct reconsideration of it or uphold the exclusion.

The effect of the recommended reconsideration One of the findings the IRPs can make. The effect is to send the decision back to the governors to consider again. There is no penalty if the governors come to the same decision again and uphold the exclusion. and the directed reconsideration decisions is that the governors of the excluding school will have to meet again within 10 school days of being notified and consider the exclusion again. They can choose to uphold the exclusion despite the independent review panel’s concerns.

If the independent review panel upholds the exclusion, or the governors uphold on reconsideration, then there is no further avenue for reviewing fixed term exclusions other than a claim for disability discrimination in the First Tier Tribunal A judicial body that will hear appeals against exclusions if the family believe the young person has been the victim of discrimination on the basis of disability. , a claim for discrimination A challenge against an exclusion in the First Tier Tribunal A judicial body that will hear appeals against exclusions if the family believe the young person has been the victim of discrimination on the basis of disability. or County Court, alleging that the young person has been discriminated against. in the County Court or a claim for judicial review A type of court case in which a judge is asked to review the decision of a public body An organisation that performs a public function with public funds. Includes schools (includes academies and free-schools, but not independent or private schools), CAMHS, the local authority and the police. and correct errors in decision making. in the High Court A Court that hears cases of judicial review A type of court case in which a judge is asked to review the decision of a public body An organisation that performs a public function with public funds. Includes schools (includes academies and free-schools, but not independent or private schools), CAMHS, the local authority and the police. and correct errors in decision making. . It has a range of powers to order a public body An organisation that performs a public function with public funds. Includes schools (includes academies and free-schools, but not independent or private schools), CAMHS, the local authority and the police. , such as a school or independent review panel, to rectify an error in their decision making. .

For the first five school days of a permanent exclusion An exclusion that results in the young person being removed from the school register and barred from the school’s campus indefinitely. the school should send work home for the young person and mark it if it is returned. From the sixth school day of exclusion, alternative education provision must be arranged, which will likely be at a pupil referral unit.

3. Internal Exclusions

Internal exclusion, sometimes called segregation or isolation, is a form of exclusion in which a young person remains on the school campus but is separated from other students and removed from their normal classes.

Regulation of internal exclusions are almost non-existent. However, like any disciplinary measure a school takes, they must be proportionate, reasonable, lawful and fair.

Internal exclusions never trigger a review automatically. If a family is concerned they can complain to the school. If they believe the exclusions are discriminatory, they can apply to the First Tier Tribunal A judicial body that will hear appeals against exclusions if the family believe the young person has been the victim of discrimination on the basis of disability. for disability discrimination, or the County Court if they believe the discrimination is on the basis of an alternative protected characteristic.

Alternatively, families can bring a claim for judicial review A type of court case in which a judge is asked to review the decision of a public body An organisation that performs a public function with public funds. Includes schools (includes academies and free-schools, but not independent or private schools), CAMHS, the local authority and the police. and correct errors in decision making. where they believe that the exclusion has been on the breach of one of the public law principles.

4. Informal Exclusions

Any exclusion that is not formally registered, confirmed to the family in writing, and subject to the terms of the Exclusions Guidance Statutory guidance to schools, governors and local authorities on the law and process for excluding, and reviewing exclusions. The 2017 edition of the guidance is the current version. , is unlawful. These are often referred to as informal exclusions, but in reality there is no power a school has to “informally” exclude and so these are all unlawful.

Unlawful exclusion can be challenged by a complaint to the school. If they believe the exclusions are discriminatory, they can apply to the First Tier Tribunal A judicial body that will hear appeals against exclusions if the family believe the young person has been the victim of discrimination on the basis of disability. for disability discrimination, or the County Court if they believe the discrimination is on the basis of an alternative protected characteristic.

Alternatively, families can bring a claim for judicial review A type of court case in which a judge is asked to review the decision of a public body An organisation that performs a public function with public funds. Includes schools (includes academies and free-schools, but not independent or private schools), CAMHS, the local authority and the police. and correct errors in decision making. where they believe that the exclusion has been on the breach of one of the public law principles.

5. Off-rolling

Off-rolling is the process of removing a child from the school's register for the benefit of the school. Commonly this will be to reduce the cost of supporting the child, or improve the school's academic rankings.

Off-rolling is unlawful. It includes any situation where the school has applied pressure to the family to remove the child from the school's register in order to benefit the school. For example, schools sometimes apply pressure to a family to opt for elective home education or a managed move A process which moves a young person from the registration of one school to the registration of another by agreement between the family and the schools. , in order to remove the young person from the school community.