School Exclusion and children out of education

What is exclusion?

Exclusion is the formal sending home of a pupil from school for disciplinary reasons. An exclusion can be:

  • fixed term (for a set number of days)
  • permanent

A pupil is not allowed on the school premises whilst they are excluded.

All state-funded mainstream and special schools, including academies and free schools, must follow: Exclusion from maintained schools, academies and pupil referral units in England.

‘Informal’ or ‘unofficial’ exclusions, such as sending a pupil home to ‘cool off’ or the school putting a pupil on a ‘part-time timetable’, are all unlawful, regardless of whether they occur with the agreement of parents/carers.

The decision to exclude

Exclusions must be lawful, reasonable and fair.

Only the head teacher or an acting head can make the decision to exclude your child/young person (YP). The exclusion must be for disciplinary reasons only.

Exclusion of children/YP with special educational needs (SEN) or a disability

The head can exclude any pupil, even if they have SEN or a disability. However, if disruptive behaviour is related to a child/YP’s SEN or disability, the school should first take action to identify and address the underlying cause of the behaviour. For example, the school could increase SEN support or pastoral support, seek specialist advice from services, such as behaviour and educational psychology teams.  You or the school could request an Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment, or arrange an emergency review of an Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP).

Exclusion should be a last resort

What should happen when a child/YP is excluded

You must be told without delay about the exclusion. The school will usually call you first, they must also write to you straight away. This can be sent by letter or email.

The written information must include:

  • the reason for the exclusion
  • the length of the exclusion – the number of days if fixed term, or that it is permanent
  • information about how you can challenge the exclusion
  • the responsibility to make sure your child/YP (if they are of compulsory school age) is not in a public place during school hours for the first five days of the exclusion
  • arrangements for alternative provision, if relevant

What is a fixed-term exclusion?

A school can exclude for a set number of days (up to a maximum of 45 days in a school year).

A lunchtime exclusion counts as half a day.

When the exclusion has ended, your child/YP must be allowed back to school. The head teacher cannot extend an exclusion, but they may issue a new fixed-term or permanent exclusion to begin straight after the first. This should only be done in exceptional circumstances, for example if there is additional information obtained by the setting.

The school should invite you and your child/YP to a reintegration meeting on the day your child/YP returns to school. If you cannot attend the meeting, your child/YP must still be allowed in school.

Your child/YP’s education during fixed-term exclusion

During the first five days of an exclusion, the school should take reasonable steps to set and mark work for your child/YP. For longer exclusions, the school must arrange suitable full-time alternative education to begin from the sixth day of the exclusion.

Challenging a fixed-term exclusion

For all exclusions, you can put your views in writing to the school governors. This is called “making representations”. The governors have the power to decide whether the head teacher made the right decision. In some cases, they can overturn the exclusion and reinstate your child/YP.

Permanent exclusion

A permanent exclusion should only be issued:

  • in response to a serious breach or persistent breaches of the school behaviour policy


  • where allowing the pupil to remain in school would seriously harm the education or welfare of the pupil or others in the school.

Your child/YP’s education during permanent exclusion

During the first five days of an exclusion, the school should take reasonable steps to set and mark work for your child/YP.

From the sixth day, it is the responsibility of the local authority (LA) to arrange suitable alternative education for your child/YP.

Alternative schools can refuse to accept a child/YP if they have been permanently excluded twice already within the last two years.

Challenging a permanent exclusion

The governors must meet within 15 school days to review the exclusion. You have the right to attend the meeting and to put your views to the governors. The governors must consider whether the head teacher’s decision was lawful, reasonable and fair. They have the power to overturn the exclusion and allow your child/YP back to school. They can also overturn the exclusion and reinstate your child/YP in principle, even if you do not want your child/YP to return to the school.

If the governors agree with the head teacher and uphold the decision, they must write to you to let you know. If you dispute the decision, then you have 15 school days from the date of the letter to ask for an Independent Review Panel (IRP) to consider the exclusion. The IRP hearing must take place within 15 school days of your request.

You can ask for a SEN expert to attend this hearing. The SEN expert’s role is to inform the panel of how your child/YP’s SEN may be relevant to the exclusion. The IRP panel cannot overturn the decision to exclude, but they can recommend or direct the governors to reconsider the decision.

If your child/YP has an EHCP

If your child/YP has an EHCP an exclusion, or the threat of one, should trigger an emergency review of the plan.

If you believe that your child/YP has been excluded as a result of their special educational needs not being met, you may need to consider one or more of the following:

  1. has the provision set out in Section F of the EHCP been arranged.
  2. is the provision in the EHC plan the right provision, is there an adequate level of support.
  3. If you feel that the EHCP does not reflect your child/YP’s needs, the provision they require or further information is required you may wish to ask for a re-assessment.
  4. if your child/YP has been excluded for more than 5 days, they are entitled to alternative provision.
  5. the LA must ensure the alternative provision is able to meet your child/YP’s SEN as set out in the EHCP.
  6. you should also note that during the first 5 days of any exclusion a parent must ensure that the child/YP is not present in a public place during school hours without reasonable justification. Parents can be given a fixed penalty notice if they fail to do this.

Further information on exclusions can be found at:

Exclusion Resources – Council For Disabled Children

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