A permanent exclusion is when a pupil is no longer allowed to attend the school and their name will be removed from the school roll (unless the pupil is reinstated).
The decision to exclude a pupil permanently should only be taken:
Suspension and permanent exclusion guidance September 2023
- 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 such as staff or pupils in the school.
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.
The new Exclusions guidance is intended to protect children who are ‘looked after’ as well as those with education and health care plans. These groups are considered to be especially vulnerable to exclusions and therefore require additional protections. Headteachers must avoid permanently excluding these children “wherever possible”.
It is also a requirement on the school to support pupils who are at risk of exclusion, before one materialises. The school should mitigate the risk of exclusion by supporting the pupil with any unmet needs they have. Because of the number of excluded young people that have underlying, unmet needs, this is one of the most important protections in place to shield vulnerable students from avoidable exclusion.
As with Fixed Term Exclusions (“Suspensions”), the decision to permanently exclude a pupil by the head teacher must be lawful, reasonable, fair & proportionate. *
- The Head Teacher must tell parents by phone or in person without delay why the pupil has been permanently excluded. Parents should have opportunity to ask questions at this
- 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.
- The Head Teacher must inform the LA and the school’s Governors. The LA must also be made aware if the child or young person has an EHC plan.
- The Governors must meet within 15 days of receiving the notice of the exclusion.
- *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.
- Parents have the right to attend the meeting with the Governors. They can also have someone to represent them at the meeting (such as a solicitor) and can bring a friend.
- If the pupil is ‘looked after’, the Head Teacher without delay, must tell the Virtual School Head (VSH) and if the pupil has a social worker, then also the social worker about the exclusion.
- 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 your child is subsequently permanently excluded following an original suspension, 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.
It is important for schools to help minimise the disruption that a permanent exclusion can cause to a pupil’s education. Whilst the statutory duty on governing boards or local authorities is to arrange full-time education from the sixth day of a permanent exclusion, there is an obvious benefit to the pupil in starting this provision as soon as possible.
In the case of a looked-after child or child with a social worker, the school and the local authority should work together to arrange alternative provision from the first day following the permanent exclusion. Where a looked-after child is excluded, the school should document the provision of immediate suitable education in the child’s PEP.
For permanent exclusions, the local authority must arrange suitable full-time education for the pupil to begin from the sixth school day after the first day the permanent exclusion took place. This will be the pupil’s ‘home authority’ in cases where the school is in a different local authority area.
The school should collaborate with the local authority when the pupil might be eligible for free home to school travel, arranged by the local authority, to the place where they will be receiving education.
In addition, where a pupil has an EHCP, the local authority may need to review the plan or reassess the child’s needs, in consultation with parents, with a view to identifying a new placement.
Provision does not have to be arranged by either the school or the local authority for a pupil in the final year of compulsory education who does not have any further public examinations to sit
The headteacher can cancel any exclusion that has already begun (or one that has not yet begun), but this can only happen when the governing board has not yet met to consider whether the pupil should be reinstated. A permanent exclusion cannot be cancelled if the pupil has already been excluded for more than 45 school days in a school year or if they will have been so by the time the cancellation takes effect.
Where an exclusion is cancelled however:
- The headteacher must notify the parents, the governing board, the LA and the pupil’s social worker and Virtual School Head (VSH) as applicable, without delay. The notification must also provide the reason for the cancellation;
- The governing board’s duty to consider reinstatement ceases, and there is no requirement to hold a meeting to consider reinstatement;
- Parents (or the excluded pupil if they are 18 years or older) should be offered the opportunity to meet the headteacher to discuss the circumstances that led to the exclusion being cancelled which should be arranged without delay;
- The pupil must be allowed back into the school from which they were excluded without delay;
- Any days spent out of school as a result of any exclusion, prior to the cancellation will count towards the maximum of 45 school days permitted in any school year.
As we saw earlier, the decision to permanently exclude a pupil by the head teacher must be lawful, reasonable, fair and proportionate. Lets take a look at what these mean.
The law sets out a number of tests that must be satisfied for a permanent exclusion to be lawful.
The governors do not have the power to uphold exclusions that are not lawful. Therefore, if the governors find an exclusion to be unlawful, but uphold it anyway, then they are acting outside of the scope of their lawful powers. The decision would, in such circumstances, be in breach of the public law principle of lawfulness.
Therefore when looking at whether the permanent exclusion was lawful, check that the proper procedures were followed in accordance with the guidance (see drop down box above – ‘what happens when the Head Teacher….’ ). For example:
- Was it the head teacher who excluded the child?
- Were you told by phone or face to face immediately?
- Were you notified in writing ‘without delay’?
- Did the letter give reasons for the exclusion?
Reasonableness requires a headteacher to account for relevant information before deciding to exclude someone. If a headteacher fails to account for witnesses saying something different, the facts or the pupil’s side of the story this may be grounds to consider that the decision to exclude them has been unreasonable.
Another thing to consider is whether this is out of character for the pupil to behave in this way. If it is, it may be considered unreasonable to permanently exclude them if this is a one off event and there may be extenuating circumstances involved.
Fairness requires that the parties are treated equally and there is a general concept in law that where a person is accused of something, their defence is fairly heard. An unfair process will undermine the decision made, even if the decision itself is technically the correct one.
Discrimination exists both in UK domestic law under the Equality Act 2010, and in the European Convention on Human Rights, both of which apply to exclusions. Disability is one of the protected characteristics in both of these and therefore any decision made in a discriminatory way would be ‘unfair’. You can find out more about Disability Discrimination in our Disability and Schools page.
The decision to permanently exclude might be unfair if:
- 2 pupils who have done the same thing and only your child is permanently excluded.
- If the pupil is rushed to explain, knowing that they struggle to verbalise.
- If the pupil is not able to give their explanation of what happened – and probably more importantly, why.
- Is the SEN provision identified under their ILP or EHCP being given?
Any sanction imposed must be proportionate to the alleged misconduct and breach of the school’s behaviour policy. Where a lesser sanction is available which would be suitable, then permanent exclusion would be disproportionate in addressing that misconduct and must not be given. Put simply, even if a permanent exclusion is reasonable, if it is one of multiple reasonable responses to a pupil’s behaviour, then the least severe must be applied.
- Has the Head Teacher considered what the impact of the exclusion will be on the pupil.
- Were there alternative sanctions available?
- Have they considered whether they will miss any exams, or whether they will have to abandon extracurricular activities. (it is very difficult for permanently excluded students in their GCSE years to get back into mainstream school, meaning they are likely to sit their GCSEs in alternative provision. It is widely accepted that a very high percentage of such students (approx 98%) leave alternative provision without achieving 5 good standard GCSEs.
You will be invited to a meeting with the school governing board if your child has been permanently excluded. This is to consider allowing your child to be able to return to school (reinstated). This meeting will happen within 15 school days of the school governing board being told about the permanent exclusion.
If you do not agree with the decision to permanently exclude your child or young person then you can make ‘written representations’ (objections) to the Governing board of the school. Let the school know straight away that you will be doing this. At the same time, if you would like to attend the meeting with the Governors, then let the school know this as well.
If your child has an EHCP, let your planning coordinator know as they may need to organise an Emergency Review of the EHC plan. The LA will be responsible for ensuring the provision is being met.
As mentioned above, you must be allowed to comment on the permanent exclusion or share information, and the school should tell you how you can do this. You can send written information for the governing board to consider before the meeting (written representations). You do not have to attend the meeting, but it is advisable to do so if possible.
- 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.
You can ask for a governing board meeting or independent review panel (IRP) meeting to be held via the use of remote access technology, such as video conferencing software. However, remote meetings should not be the automatic choice and face-to-face meetings should always be encouraged. For governing board meetings, the head teacher must tell you in writing that you can ask for the meeting to be held remotely. For IRP meetings, the governing board must tell you in writing that you can ask for the meeting to be held remotely.
When deciding whether to request a remote meeting, you should consider:
- your internet connectivity, whether it is good enough and not intermittent or slow
- if you have a suitable space free from distraction to enable you to fully take part
- whether a face-to-face meeting may be better
The governing board, or organisation that arranges IRP meetings, must be satisfied that
- those taking part will be able to comment on, or share information about the issues remotely
- the meeting can be held fairly and openly this way
The use of remote access does not alter other exclusion process requirements that apply to governing boards, organisations that arrange IRP meetings or independent review panels. For example, if you request the appointment of a SEN expert to advise a review panel, the organisation that arranges IRP meetings must appoint one and cover the cost as normal. You may be joined by a friend as normal.
The meeting will probably take place at the school or may take place remotely if you have requested this. You can also request that a friend or representative (for example, from a charity or advocacy organisation) attend with you. You should inform the governing board if you will be bringing someone with you. The governing board must also invite the following people to the meeting:
- the head teacher
- a representative of the local authority (in the case of a maintained school or pupil referral unit)
- your child’s social worker, if they have one
- the virtual school head, if your child is looked after by the local authority (in care)
Each of these people should be given an opportunity to speak and ask questions. As a parent, you will have the chance to explain why you think your child should not have been permanently excluded and why you think they should be reinstated. You may also be asked questions.
You will be sent something in writing shortly after the governing board meeting explaining what decision the governing board has made and the reasons for their decision. The decision will either be:
- not to reinstate your child
- to reinstate your child
If your child is not reinstated, your child will not be able to return to school until the end of their suspension, or at all if they are permanently excluded. If they are permanently excluded your local authority must arrange educational provision from the sixth school day of the permanent exclusion. If your child is reinstated, you should be told when your child can return to school, if they have not returned already.
If your child has been permanently excluded and the governing board decides not to reinstate them, you have the right to request an independent review panel.
If your child has been permanently excluded and the governing board decides not to reinstate them, you have the right to request an independent review panel. This is organised by your local authority (or academy trust if the school is an academy). The governing board must explain to you how to do this. You must apply within 15 school days of receiving the governing board’s decision.
An independent review panel may take place:
- at your child’s school
- in another school building
- at the local authority’s offices
- remotely if you have requested it (see above for conditions)
The panel members will include:
- a current or past head teacher
- a current or past governor
These will be from another school, not the one your child attended. The independent review panel members should be independent and impartial.
You can ask for a SEN expert to attend an independent review panel, regardless of whether the school recognises that your child has SEN. You should include this in your application for an independent review panel.
If you are unhappy about how the exclusion process (including the reviews) has been dealt with for your child, you can complain to DfE.
Before you can submit a complaint about a school, you need to have first gone through the school’s complaints procedures. It is a legal requirement for all maintained schools to publish their complaints policy on their website, and all academies are encouraged to do so as well. If you have complained to the school and you are not happy with their handling of your complaint, you can complain to DfE. When you submit a complaint you should provide copies of:
- all correspondence sent to and received from the school, including any decision letters, in connection with the suspension or permanent exclusion and complaint
- any notes or minutes of any meetings held in connection with the suspension or permanent exclusion and complaint
If you are unhappy about the way the independent review was carried out following your child’s permanent exclusion you can:
- complain to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman – for maintained schools
- complain to DfE – for academies
Up to Sept 23 And From Sept 2023: School suspensions and permanent exclusions – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Guide for parents: School exclusions: guide for parents – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)