Your child’s school should be a calm, safe and supportive environment in which your child wants to attend, free from disruption and fear of bullying. It is generally accepted that:
Good behaviour in schools is central to a good education. Schools need to manage behaviour well so they can provide calm, safe and supportive environments which children and young people want to attend and where they can learn and thrive. Being taught how to behave well and appropriately within the context they’re in is vital for all pupils to succeed personally.
Where behaviour is poor, pupils can suffer from issues as diverse as lost learning time, child-on-child abuse, anxiety, bullying, violence, and distress. It can cause some children to stay away from school, missing vital learning time. Similarly, continually dealing with misbehaviour negatively affects the wellbeing of teachers and, for some, it is a reason why they leave the profession.Behaviour in Schools guidance Sept 2022
Maintaining a positive culture requires constant work and schools should positively reinforce the behaviour which reflects the values of the school and prepares pupils to engage in their learning. Sometimes a pupil’s behaviour will be unacceptable, and pupils need to understand that there are consequences for their behaviour. Often this will involve the use of reasonable and proportionate sanctions.
Responding to good behaviour
Acknowledging good behaviour encourages repetition and communicates the school community’s expectations and values to all pupils. Using positive recognition and rewards provides an opportunity for all staff to reinforce the school’s culture and ethos. Positive reinforcements and rewards should be applied clearly and fairly to reinforce the routines, expectations, and norms of the school’s behaviour culture. Examples of rewards may include:
- verbal praise;
- communicating praise to parents via phone call or written correspondence;
- certificates, prize ceremonies or special assemblies;
- positions of responsibility, such as prefect status or being entrusted with a
particular decision or project; and
- whole-class or year group rewards, such as a popular activity.
Responding to misbehaviour
The aims of any response to misbehaviour should be to maintain the culture of the school, restore a calm and safe environment in which all pupils can learn and thrive, and prevent the recurrence of misbehaviour.
To achieve these aims, a response to behaviour may have various purposes. These include:
- deterrence: sanctions can often be effective deterrents for a specific pupil or a general deterrent for all pupils at the school.
- protection: keeping pupils safe is a legal duty of all staff. A protective measure in response to inappropriate behaviour, for example, removing a pupil from a lesson, may be immediate or after assessment of risk.
- improvement: to support pupils to understand and meet the behaviour expectations of the school and reengage in meaningful education. Pupils will test boundaries, may find their emotions difficult to manage, or may have misinterpreted the rules. Pupils should be supported to understand and follow the rules. This may be via sanctions, reflective conversations or targeted pastoral support.
On this page we will look at some of the the different responses to misbehaviour (i.e. types of sanctions and exclusions), when they may be considered reasonable and proportionate and what to do if you have concerns or do not agree. Fair and proportionate is especially important when looking at behaviour through the lens of Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities and we look at this in more detail at various stages.
Before we start it is worth noting that the Suspension and Permanent Exclusion Guidance (for maintained schools, academies and pupil referral units in England, including pupil movement) was updated in May 2023 for use in these settings from September 2023. It is this guidance and not the pre-Sept 23 that will be referred to in our exclusions pages.
This DfE guidance is also meant to support the Behaviour in schools Guidance and we will refer to this as well in our guidance pages. They have also issued A guide for parents on school behaviour and exclusion Published 25 May 2023 which is to start from September 2023
All schools should have a Behaviour Policy that inform how they make decisions to respond to misbehaviour. It is worth taking a look at your child or young person’s school behaviour policy to check that they are following it themselves.
The behaviour policy of your child’s school will set out how all pupils should behave, including the prevention of, and response to, bullying. It will include what the various sanctions used by the school are and how they are decided.
For maintained schools, the headteacher must publicise the school behaviour policy in writing to parents, staff, and pupils at least once a year and must also be published on the school website.
Where the school does not have a website, the governing body must make arrangements for
the behaviour policy to be put on a website and to make the address and details (of the website) known to parents. Academies and independent schools should publish details of the school’s behaviour policy.
If there are any aspects of the behaviour policy that you want to discuss, you should do this directly with your child’s school.
A behaviour policy should include detail on the following:
- purpose – including the underlying objectives of the policy, and how it creates a
safe environment in which all pupils can learn and reach their full potential;
- leadership and management – including the role of designated staff and
leaders, any systems used, the resources allocated and engagement of
- school systems and social norms – including rules, routines, and
- staff induction, development and support – including regular training for staff
- pupil transition – including induction and re-induction into behaviour systems,
rules, and routines;
- pupil support – including the roles and responsibilities of designated staff and
the support provided to pupils with additional needs where those needs might
- child-on-child abuse – including measures to prevent child-on-child abuse and
the response to incidents of such abuse; and
- banned items – a list of items which are banned by the school and for which a
search can be made.
So what are the different ways a school can deal with misbehaviour? Let’s take a look:
Acceptable forms of sanctions
A school’s behaviour policy should include a range of possible sanctions clearly communicated to and understood by pupils, staff, and parents. Examples of sanctions may include:
- a verbal reprimand and reminder of the expectations of behaviour;
- the setting of written tasks such as an account of their behaviour;
- loss of privileges – for instance, the loss of a prized responsibility;
- school based community service, such as tidying a classroom;
- regular reporting including early morning reporting; scheduled uniform checks; or being placed “on report” for behaviour monitoring;
- suspension (fixed term exclusions) ; and
- in the most serious of circumstances, permanent exclusion.
Taking disciplinary action and providing appropriate support should occur at the same time if necessary. The school should be clear about its approach and in which category any action falls, ensuring that the action complies with the law relating to each category.
Schools should consider whether the misbehaviour gives cause to suspect that a pupil is suffering, or is likely to suffer, harm. Where this may be the case school staff should follow the school’s child protection policy and speak to the designated safeguarding lead (or deputy). They should consider if pastoral support, an early help intervention or a referral to children’s social care is appropriate.
Alternative arrangements for sanctions can be considered on a case-by-case basis for any pupil where the school believes an alternative arrangement would be more effective for that particular pupil, based on their knowledge of that pupil’s personal circumstances. The school should have regard to the impact on consistency and perceived fairness overall when considering any alternative arrangements.
If a pupil in these circumstances has SEND that has affected their behaviour, the school will need to consider what the law requires (see below).
Teachers can sanction pupils whose conduct falls below the standard which could reasonably be expected of them. This means that if a pupil misbehaves, breaks a rule or fails to follow a reasonable instruction, the teacher can apply a sanction on that pupil.
Staff can issue sanctions any time pupils are in school or elsewhere under the charge of a member of staff, including on school visits. This also applies in certain circumstances when a pupil’s misbehaviour occurs outside of school.
A sanction will be lawful if it satisfies the following three conditions:
- The decision to sanction a pupil is made by a paid member of school staff (but not one who the headteacher has decided should not do so) or an unpaid member of staff authorised by the headteacher;
- The decision to sanction the pupil and the sanction itself are made on the school premises or while the pupil is under the lawful charge of the member of staff; and
- It does not breach any other legislation (for example in respect of equality, special educational needs and human rights) and it is reasonable in all the circumstances.
In considering whether a sanction is reasonable in all circumstances, one must consider whether it is proportionate in the circumstances of the case and consider any special circumstances relevant to its imposition including the pupil’s age, any special educational needs or disability they may have, and any religious requirements affecting them.
The headteacher may limit the power to apply particular sanctions, or to sanction particular pupils or types of pupils, to certain staff and/or extend the power to discipline to adult volunteers, for example to parents who have volunteered to help on a school trip. Corporal punishment by school staff is illegal in all circumstances.
A detention is a commonly used sanction, often used as a deterrent to future misbehaviour. It is typically a short period where the pupil is required to remain under supervision of school staff when their peers have been allowed to go home or to break.
When used, it should be done so consistently and fairly by staff. This process should be well known to all pupils and staff.
- Teachers have authority to issue detention to pupils, including same-day detentions.
- A school’s behaviour policy should make clear that detention (including detention outside of school hours) can be used as a possible sanction.
- A detention outside normal school hours will be lawful if it meets the following conditions:
- with lunchtime detentions, staff should allow reasonable time for the pupil to eat, drink and use the toilet
- the pupil is under 18 (unless the detention is during lunch break);
- the headteacher has communicated to pupils and parents that detentions outside school sessions may be used; and
- the detention is held at any of the following times:
a) any school day where the pupil does not have permission to be absent;
b) weekends during term – except a weekend during, preceding or following the half term break; or
c) non-teaching days – usually referred to as ‘training days’, ‘INSET days’ or ‘non-contact days’, except if it falls on a public holiday, on a day which precedes the first day of term, during the half-term break, or after the last school day of the term.
- The headteacher can decide which members of staff can issue detentions. For example, a headteacher could limit the power to heads of year or heads of department only, or they could decide that all members of staff, including support staff, can impose detentions. This should be laid out clearly in the behaviour policy and communicated clearly to all pupils, parents, and staff.
Parental consent is not required for detentions that satisfy the conditions
1&2 from ‘what the law allows’ above.
With lunchtime detentions, staff should allow reasonable time for the pupil to eat, drink and use the toilet.
School staff should not issue a detention where there is any reasonable concern that doing so would compromise a pupil’s safety. When ensuring that a detention outside school hours is reasonable, staff issuing the detention should consider the following points:
- whether the detention is likely to put the pupil at increased risk;
- whether the pupil has known caring responsibilities;
- whether the detention timing conflicts with a medical appointment;
- whether parents ought to be informed of the detention. In many cases it will be necessary to do so, but this will depend on the circumstances. For instance, notice may not be necessary for a short after-school detention where the pupil can get home safely; and
- whether suitable travel arrangements can reasonably be made by the parent for the pupil. It does not matter if making these arrangements is inconvenient for the parent.
An exclusion is where the headteacher has decided that a child or young person is not allowed to enter the educational setting’s premises. The term ‘headteacher’ in these exclusion pages means the headteacher of a maintained school, the teacher in charge at a PRU and the principal of an academy.
There are only 2 types of legal exclusion – A fixed Term Exclusion and a Permanent Exclusion. Schools and the government guidance often use different terms such as ‘Suspension’, ‘Temporary Exclusion’ but they mean the same thing – either permanent or for a fixed term. There may of course be internal ‘exclusions’. These can be known as ‘detentions’, ‘sanctions’ or ‘inclusions’. We will look at unlawful exclusions further on.
A pupil may have fixed term exclusions for one or more fixed periods (up to a maximum of 45 school days in a single academic year), or be permanently excluded.
Headteachers can use fixed term and permanent exclusion in response to serious incidents or in response to persistent poor behaviour which has not improved following in-school sanctions and interventions.
In a nutshell, only the head teacher or principle (if an academy), or acting headteacher or principle can exclude a pupil on disciplinary grounds. An acting headteacher or principle is someone appointed to carry out the functions of the headteacher in the headteacher’s absence or pending the appointment of a headteacher.
Any decision of a headteacher, including suspension or permanent exclusion, must be made in line with the principles of administrative law, i.e. that it is:
- Lawful (with respect to the legislation relating directly to fixed term and permanent exclusions and a school’s wider legal duties);
- Fair; and
The reasons below are taken from the Suspension and Permanent Exclusion DfE guidance (from Sept 2023) and are examples of the types of circumstances that may arrant a fixed term or permanent exclusion.
- Physical assault against a pupil
- Physical assault against an adult
- Verbal abuse or threatening behaviour against a pupil
- Verbal abuse or threatening behaviour against an adult
- Use, or threat of use, of an offensive weapon or prohibited item that has been
prohibited by a school’s behaviour policy
- Racist abuse
- Abuse against sexual orientation or gender reassignment
- Abuse relating to disability
This list is not exhaustive and is intended to offer examples rather than be complete
A pupil’s behaviour outside school can also be considered grounds for a fixed term or
When establishing the facts in relation to a suspension or permanent exclusion decision the headteacher must apply the civil standard of proof, i.e. ‘on the balance of probabilities’ it is more likely than not that a fact is true, (rather than the criminal standard of ‘beyond reasonable doubt).’
This means that the headteacher should accept that something happened if it is more likely that it happened than that it did not happen. The headteacher must take account of their legal duty of care when sending a pupil home following an exclusion.
Please click on the links below to find out what should happen if the head teacher decides to issue a fixed term or permanent exclusion and what you can do if you disagree.
Telling or forcing a pupil to leave school, or not allowing them to attend school, is a Fixed Term (if temporary) or permanent exclusion (if permanent). Whenever a pupil is made to leave school, or forbidden from attending school, on disciplinary grounds, this must be done in accordance with the School Discipline (Pupil Exclusions and Reviews) (England) Regulations 2012 and with regard to relevant parts of this guidance.
Sending a pupil for a short period of time (except for medical reasons etc), such as half a day, is permissible but the formal suspension process must still be followed. Each disciplinary suspension and permanent exclusion must be confirmed to the parents in writing with notice of the reasons for the suspension or permanent exclusion.
Any exclusion of a pupil, even for short periods, must be formally recorded. It would also be unlawful to exclude a pupil simply because they have SEN or a disability that the school feels it is unable to meet, or for a reason such as, academic attainment/ability; or the failure of a pupil to meet specific conditions before they are reinstated, such as to attend a reintegration meeting. If any of these unlawful exclusions are carried out and lead to the deletion of a pupil’s name from the register, this is known as ‘off-rolling’. An informal or unofficial exclusion, such as sending a pupil home ‘to cool off’, is unlawful when it does not follow the formal school exclusion process and regardless of whether it occurs with the agreement of parents.
A further example of off-rolling would be exercising undue influence over a parent to remove their child from the school under the threat of a permanent exclusion and encouraging them to choose Elective Home Education or to find another school place.
If a parent feels pressured into electively home educating their child or that the suspension or permanent exclusion procedures have not been followed, they can follow the school’s complaints procedure with the governing board and in the case of a maintained school, the local authority. Ofsted considers any evidence of off-rolling and is likely to judge a school as inadequate if there is evidence that pupils have been removed from the school roll without a formal permanent exclusion or by the school encouraging a parent to remove their child from the school, and leaders have taken insufficient action to address this.
Sometimes it may be in your child or young person’s best interests to move to another school.
To support your child with their behaviour, your child’s school can decide that your child will be educated somewhere else for a limited period.
Your child could be educated at another school or alternative provision setting. This could also include your child splitting time between 2 different locations. This should only be used when it is the best way to support your child’s behaviour. This arrangement is commonly known as off-site direction.
If your child has an EHC plan, the local authority should be told about an off-site direction placement and an interim or emergency Review of the EHC plan will be needed.
In some cases, your child’s school may decide it is best for your child to move to another school permanently following an off-site direction placement. This is known as a managed move.
A managed move is used to initiate a process which leads to the transfer of a pupil to another mainstream school permanently. If a temporary move needs to occur to improve a pupil’s behaviour, then off-site direction (as described in the Suspension and Permanent Exclusion guidance) should be used.
Managed moves should be voluntary and have your agreement before they take place. Your child’s school should not pressure you into agreeing to one. If you feel pressured into agreeing to a managed move, it is very important that you raise this with the school’s governing board.
A managed move should only occur when it is in your child’s best interests and all parties, including the new school and you, agree it would be best for your child to move to another school permanently.
Schools should not use a ‘trial period’ or ‘trial admission’ for managed moves, as a managed move is a permanent move to another school.
If your child has an EHC plan, their school should contact the local authority prior to the move and if the local authority, both schools and you are in agreement that there should be a managed move, the local authority will need to follow the process for changing an EHC plan.
Detailed advice is available in Use of Reasonable Force – advice for school leaders, staff and governing bodies. Headteachers and all school staff should read this guidance.
There are circumstances when it is appropriate for staff in schools to use reasonable force to safeguard children. The term ‘reasonable force’ covers the broad range of actions used by staff that involve a degree of physical contact to control or restrain children. ‘Reasonable’ in these circumstances means ‘using no more force than is needed’.
Members of staff have the power to use reasonable force to prevent pupils committing an offence, injuring themselves or others, or damaging property and to maintain good order and discipline at the school or among pupils.
Headteachers and authorised school staff may also use such force as is reasonable given the circumstances when conducting a search for knives or weapons, alcohol, illegal drugs, stolen items, tobacco, fireworks, pornographic images or articles that they reasonably suspect have been or are likely to be used to commit an offence or cause harm. Force may not be used to search for other items banned under the school rules.
When considering using reasonable force staff should, in considering the risks, carefully recognise any specific vulnerabilities of the pupil, including SEND, mental health needs or medical conditions.
What to do if I disagree with a sanction
If you disagree with an exclusion, there are different responses depending on the length of the exclusion or whether it is permanent. You can find more about this on the separate Exclusion pages.
For disagreements over any of the other sanctions listed then consider the following. Mention any specific factors you feel they might not have been considered or followed (but also remember to acknowledge those areas that were) for example:
- Have the sanctions been given in line with the school’s own behaviour policy? If not, mention which part was not followed and examples of how.
- Have they considered your child / young person’s SEND and known / suspected needs? If not, mention what you feel wasn’t considered and examples of why you think this. Include any referrals or assessments being waited for.
- Is your child or young person receiving all the support the school acknowledges they need (this may be set out in an ILP/IEP or equivalent, setting out the support they will receive)? If not, include areas you think are being missed and the consequence of this.
- Is there anything that you feel could have been done differently or anything else that wasn’t considered? Be specific and give examples.
- What outcome(s) would you like to see?
Remember – Managed Moves (and part-time timetables) need to have your permission before they can be arranged. You do not have to give your permission but we advise you to ask for all the information so that you can make an informed, considered decision.
Resources / Other information
- Behavioural to Relational Responses at School (beaconhouse.org.uk)
- A guide for parents on school behaviour and exclusion – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Behaviour in schools Guidance
- Exclusion Resources – Equality and Human Rights Commission (councilfordisabledchildren.org.uk)
- School suspensions and permanent exclusions – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- School exclusions: guide for parents – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Working together to improve school attendance