Fixed Term Exclusions / Suspensions

Fixed Term Exclusions (otherwise known as “Suspensions“, especially in the Sept 2023 new statutory guidance and will be referred to such on this page) is a behaviour management tool and is where a pupil is temporarily removed from the school. Use of suspensions should be set out within a school’s behaviour policy and may be used to provide a clear signal of what is unacceptable behaviour as part of their policy and show a pupil that their current behaviour is putting them at risk of permanent exclusion.

Please note: Any guidance referred to on this page applies to maintained schools, academies, and pupil referral units in England. Independent schools (including Independent Special Schools) must adhere to the Equality Act 2010 when making a decision to exclude as well as to their own Behaviour Policy.

A pupil may be suspended for one or more fixed periods (up to a maximum of 45 school days in a single academic year). A suspension does not have to be for a continuous period.

A suspension can also be for parts of the school day. For example, if a pupil’s behaviour at lunchtime is disruptive, they may be suspended from the school premises for the duration of the lunchtime period. The legal requirements relating to the suspension, such as the headteacher’s duty to notify parents, apply in all cases. Lunchtime suspensions are counted as half a school day in determining whether a governing board meeting is triggered.

The law does not allow for extending a suspension or ‘converting’ a suspension into a permanent exclusion. In exceptional cases, usually where further evidence has come to light, a further suspension or a permanent exclusion may be issued to begin immediately after the first suspension ends.

As we have read in our other pages, only the head teacher has the power to exclude (unless they have specifically designated this duty for example, being away) and it must be on disciplinary grounds (not because the school cannot meet the child’s needs). The decision to exclude a pupil must be lawful, reasonable, fair & proportionate.

Where suspensions are becoming a regular occurrence for a pupil, headteachers and schools should consider whether suspension alone is an effective sanction for the pupil and whether additional strategies need to be put in place to address behaviour.

What makes a suspension lawful?

Any exclusion of a pupil, even for a short period of time, must be formally and accurately recorded. For an suspension to be lawful, certain steps must be followed by the school. These steps will vary depending on whether the length of the suspension is:

  • Up to 5 days
  • Between 5 and 15 days
  • Over 15 days

All the following steps must be completed for a suspension to be lawful. Only points 3 & 4 may differ (depending on which of the above time scales apply):

  1. The Head Teacher must tell parents by phone or in person without delay why the pupil has been excluded and for how long.
  2. The Head Teacher must then follow this up in writing to the parents with the same information. They must also explain that they have right to make representations* about the exclusion and how to do this.
  3. The Head Teacher must inform the LA (and Governors if over 5 days).
  4. The Governors must meet (if the exclusion is over 15 days) within 15 days of receiving the notice of the exclusion. If less, then they must meet if an external or National Curriculum exam would be missed or parents request a meeting.
  5. *Parents always have the right to say why they object to the exclusion or give their views about it. These are called “representations” and should be made in writing.  These must be considered by governors even where there is no requirement for a meeting.
  6. If there is a meeting, parents have the right to attend. They can also have someone to represent them at the meeting (such as a solicitor) and can bring a friend.
  7. If the pupil is ‘looked after’, the Head Teacher without delay, must tell the Virtual School Head and if the pupil has a social worker, then also the social worker about the exclusion.
  8. School must take reasonable steps to set and mark work for the first five days of a period of exclusion. All work provided should be something that can be done by pupils outside of school.

If a child is suspended again following their original suspension, or is subsequently
permanently excluded, the headteacher must inform parents and where relevant, the
pupil’s social worker or local authority if the pupil has an EHCP, without delay and issue a
new exclusion notice
to parents and the social worker.

If your child has been removed from the school without the lawful suspension process being followed, you should discuss this with the head teacher in the first instance. You should follow the school’s complaints procedure to complain to the governing board if you are not satisfied.

Entitlement to alternative education

For a fixed term exclusion of more than five school days, the governing body (or, if a pupil is excluded from a pupil referral unit, the local authority) must arrange suitable, full-time education for any pupil of compulsory school age. This provision must begin no later than the sixth day of the exclusion, but they should try to start this provision as soon as possible.

It is important that during a suspension, pupils still receive their education. Headteachers should take steps to ensure that work is set and marked for pupils during the first five school days of a suspension. This can include utilising any online pathways such as Google Classroom or Oak National Academy.

For pupils who are ‘looked after’, schools and local authorities should work together to arrange alternative provision from the first day following the exclusion. For Permanent Exclusion it is the LA (not the school) who become responsible for arranging a suitable, full-time education to begin no later than the sixth day of the exclusion, but they should try to start this provision as soon as possible.

The school’s legal duties to pupils with disabilities or SEN remain in force, for example, to make reasonable adjustments in how they support disabled pupils during this period. Any time a pupil is sent home due to disciplinary reasons and asked to log on or utilise online pathways should always be recorded as a suspension.

Any use of alternative provision should be based on an understanding of the support a child or young person needs in order to improve their behaviour, as well as any SEND or health needs.

Off-site direction may only be used as a way to improve future behaviour and not as a sanction or punishment for past misconduct. Off-site direction should only be used where in school interventions and/or outreach have been unsuccessful or are deemed inappropriate and should only be used to arrange a temporary stay in Alternative provision.

Special considerations / Groups

Schools and their Governing Bodies have extra duties where children and young people have:

  • SEND (Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities);
  • a social worker and/or
  • who may be or have previously been ‘looked after’

Pupils with disabilities and Special Educational Needs (SEN) including those with Education, Health and Care plans (EHC plans)

The Equality Act 2010 requires schools to make reasonable adjustments for disabled pupils. This duty can, in principle, apply both to the suspensions and permanent exclusions process and to the disciplinary sanctions imposed. Under the Children and Families Act 2014, governing boards of relevant settings must use their ‘best endeavours’ to ensure the appropriate special educational provision is made for pupils with SEN, which will include any support in relation to behaviour management that they need because of their SEN.

Schools should engage proactively with parents in supporting the behaviour of pupils with additional needs.

Where a school has concerns about the behaviour, or risk of suspension and permanent exclusion, of a pupil with SEN, a disability or an EHC plan it should, in partnership with others (including where relevant, the local authority), consider what additional support or alternative placement may be required. This should involve
assessing the suitability of provision for a pupil’s SEN or disability.

Where a pupil has an EHC plan, schools should contact the local authority about any behavioural concerns at an early stage and consider requesting an early annual review prior to making the decision to suspend or permanently exclude. For those with SEN but without an EHC plan, the school should review, with external specialists as appropriate, whether the current support arrangements are appropriate and what changes may be required. This may provide a point for schools to request an EHC assessment or a review of the pupil’s current package of support.

Pupils who have a social worker, including looked-after children, and previously looked-after children

The September 2023 Guidance now gives more attention to those children and young people who are or who have previously been ‘looked-after’, and those who have a social worker.

For the majority of children who have a social worker, this is due to known safeguarding risks at home or in the community: over half are in need due to abuse or neglect. For children with a social worker, education is an important protective factor, providing a safe space for children to receive support, be visible to professionals and realise their potential. When children are not in school, they miss the protection and opportunities it can provide, and become more vulnerable to harm. Headteachers should balance this important reality with the need to ensure calm and safe environments for all pupils and staff, so should devise strategies that take both of these aspects into account.

Where a pupil has a social worker, e.g. because they are the subject of a Child in Need Plan or a Child Protection Plan, and they are at risk of suspension or permanent exclusion, the headteacher should inform their social worker, the Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) and the pupil’s parents to involve them all as early as possible in relevant conversations.

Where a child who is ‘looked-after’ is likely to be subject to a suspension or permanent exclusion, the Designated Teacher (DT) should contact the local authority’s Virtual School Head (VSH) as soon as possible. The VSH, working with the DT and others, should consider what additional assessment and support need to be put in place to help the school address the factors affecting the child’s behaviour and reduce the need for suspension or permanent exclusion. Where relevant, the school should also engage with a child’s social worker, foster carers, or children’s home workers.

All looked-after children should have a Personal Education Plan (PEP) which is part of the child’s care plan or detention placement plan. This should be reviewed every term and any concerns about the pupil’s behaviour should be recorded, as well as how the pupil is being supported to improve their behaviour and reduce the likelihood of exclusion. Monitoring of PEPs can be an effective way for VSHs to check on this.

Where previously looked-after children face the risk of being suspended or permanently excluded, the school should engage with the child’s parents and the school’s DT. The school may also seek the advice of the VSH on strategies to support the pupil.

What can you do if you disagree?

If you do not agree with an exclusion, then here are some brief tips:

  • Let the school know straight away that you will be writing to the Governors with objections (“representations”).
  • If you would like a meeting with the Governors, let the school know this at the same time.
  • If your child has an EHCP and exclusions are increasing in frequency or length (or is permanent), let your planning coordinator know. An Emergency Annual review may well be needed.
  • Send your objections (“representations”) as soon as you can and include:
    • If your child has SEND (Special educational needs and/or disabilities) – either diagnosed or not and point out that the school are aware.
    • Are their needs being properly met? If not, the exclusion may be unfair or unlawful. If an EHCP is in place, is all the provision being made (in Section F).
    • Is it possible that there are unidentified needs which require more investigation or support? Is an EHC needs assessment needed or a reassessment made of the EHCP?
    • What you think might help avoid / prevent further exclusions in the future. For example allowing time to calm down, not forcing a discussion whilst in an agitated state, following the steps in the one page profile / EHCP etc.
    • Include anything that has worked well, or acknowledge where certain teachers have tried.
    • Try and avoid personal ‘attacks’ on individual teachers (focus where possible on the school, only mentioning specific teachers in the actual events leading up to the exclusion).
    • Refer to the statutory guidance and Equality Act (if relevant) and use quotes that support your point(s). (see end of factsheet for links)
    • If your child has been permanently excluded, you have the right to have a SEN expert present at the independent review panel, so request one to be present if wanted. The school should organise this.
    • If your child has been excluded for more than 5 days, they are entitled to suitable, alternative education. Remind them of this duty and ask them to let you know what is being organised.
    • Remember – during the first 5 days of any exclusion you must make sure your child is not in a public place during school hours without reasonable justification. Parents can be given a fixed penalty notice if they fail to do this.

Reintegration after a suspension (or off-site direction)

Schools should support pupils to reintegrate successfully into school life and full-time education following a suspension (this may also be after a cancelled exclusion) or period of off-site direction (see paragraphs 36 to 47). They should design a reintegration strategy that offers the pupil a fresh start; helps them understand the effect of their behaviour on themselves and others; teaches them to how meet the high expectations of behaviour in line with the school culture; fosters a renewed sense of belonging within the school community; and builds engagement with learning.

The reintegration strategy should be clearly communicated at a reintegration meeting before or at the beginning of the pupil’s return to school. During a reintegration meeting, the school should communicate to the pupil that they are valued, and their previous behaviour should not be seen as an obstacle to future success. Where possible this meeting should include the pupil’s parents. It is important to note that a pupil should not be prevented from returning to a mainstream classroom if parents are unable or unwilling to attend a reintegration meeting. To ensure ongoing progress, the strategy should be regularly reviewed and adapted where necessary throughout the reintegration process in collaboration with the pupil, parents, and other relevant parties.

Where necessary, schools should work with relevant staff and multi-agency organisations, such as teachers, pastoral staff, mentors, social workers, educational psychologists or the safer schools team, to identify if the pupil has any SEND and/or health needs.

A part-time timetable should not be used to manage a pupil’s behaviour and must only be in place for the shortest time necessary. Any pastoral support programme or other agreement should have a time limit by which point the pupil is expected to attend full-time education, either at school or alternative provision.

There should also be formal arrangements in place for regularly reviewing a part-time timetable with the pupil and their parents. In agreeing to a part-time timetable, a school has agreed to a pupil being absent from school for part of the week or day and must treat absence as authorised.

Schools can consider a range of measures to enable the pupil’s successful reintegration which can include, but are not limited to:

  • Maintaining regular contact during the suspension or off-site direction and welcoming the pupil back to school;
  • Daily contact with a designated pastoral professional in school;
  • Use of a report card with personalised targets leading to personalised rewards;
  • Ensuring the pupil follows an equivalent curriculum during their suspension or off-site direction or receives academic support upon return to catch up on any lost progress;
  • Planned pastoral interventions;
  • Mentoring by a trusted adult or a local mentoring charity;
  • Regular reviews with the pupil and parents to praise progress being made and raise and address any concerns at an early stage;
  • Informing the pupil, parents and staff of potential external support.

Further Information

Exclusion Resources – Equality and Human Rights Commission (

A guide for parents on school behaviour and exclusion – GOV.UK ( ——

Up to Sept 23 And From Sept 2023: School suspensions and permanent exclusions – GOV.UK (

Guide for parents: School exclusions: guide for parents – GOV.UK (