What is the law governing a child's exclusion from school?


Excluding a child from school is a very serious step. It not only causes significant inconvenience to parents who must either take time off work or make childcare arrangements, but it deprives the child themselves of a portion of their education.

Consequently, it may only be applied in particular circumstances and after following stringent procedures.

Local Education Authorities along with head teachers administer the regulations under which a child may be excluded. As such, they may differ slightly depending upon your location in the country.

For background legal information, visit our education law page.

Fixed-period exclusion

Previously known as suspension, temporary exclusions for a set number of days can be used as a disciplinary measure against consistently disruptive pupils. They may not last for more than 45 days in any school year, but also may not be appealed.

However for exclusions lasting between 5 and 15 days, as the parent of an excluded child, you may request a meeting with the Pupil Discipline Committee, who will consider your views. Ultimately an exclusion may only be given by the head teacher of the school.

The school is obliged to take steps to try and improve the excluded pupil’s behaviour on their return to school. This could involve segregating them from the rest of the class, particularly from other pupils known to be a disruptive influence.

They may also advise you of any unhealthy friendship groups or gangs the pupil is involved with so that you can take action at home.

Permanent exclusions

Previously known as expulsion, permanent exclusions remove the child from the school forever. They are a very serious measure and will usually only be applied as an absolute last resort, when all other options have failed.

Although ordinarily permanent exclusions will only be applied after a series of incidents and temporary exclusions, it is possible and legal to apply them after just one event, provided it is sufficiently serious. Violence, especially towards teachers, may well result in this, as will serious criminal offences such as drug dealing or carrying weapons.

Appeals and legal advice

If your child is permanently excluded you have the right to take your case to the school’s governing body that will consider your views. If the governing body upholds the school’s decision to permanently exclude your child, you have the right to appeal their decision to an independent panel that your Local Education Authority maintains.

You are advised to seek legal advice before you appeal the decision. A solicitor can accompany you to any appeal hearing. Your school should have explained in a letter to you how you could make this formal appeal, and your Local Authority must provide full-time education to your child after the sixth day of permanent exclusion.

You can seek legal advice from a specialist solicitor if you feel the school has acted unlawfully - for example, if you believe they have discriminated against your child.

A solicitor will examine the decision and the events that led to the decision being made. They can then advise you of your options. They may also be able to represent you in any legal action they advise you to take.

If you would like to obtain legal advice on exclusion from school, we can put you in touch with a local specialist solicitor free of charge. So, if you have any questions or would like our help in finding local solicitors please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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