How is a decision made to exclude a child from school?

The decision to exclude can only be made by the headteacher, or by the acting head if the headteacher is not on site. Other members of staff cannot make this decision. The decision to exclude must be taken on the 'balance of probabilities', i.e. if it seems more likely than not that the pupil did what they are accused of.

The head teacher should where possible allow a pupil to present their case before deciding whether to exclude. If this has not happened, you can ask the child to explain their version of what happened and send this to the school.

It is important that if the child has Special Educational Needs (SEN), the school considers first what extra support is needed or whether a different school would be more suitable. If the child has a statement of SEN then the school should consider bringing forward the annual review or holding an emergency review. So far as possible headteachers should not permanently exclude a child who has a Statement of SEN.

In reaching the decision whether or not to exclude, the head teacher should also consider other factors that may have affected the child's behaviour, for example:

  • whether the child was being bullied,
  • the effects of bereavement or separation from parents,
  • hitherto unidentified special educational needs or disability
  • the child's mental health

The headteacher should be especially aware of the heightened risk of exclusion for vulnerable children, including looked after children, and should consider whether a pupil who is at risk of exclusion might instead benefit from help from other agencies. If so, the school can use the Common Assessment Framework to explore the child's needs and decide what extra help could be provided to the child and their family, so that exclusion might be avoided.

Are school governors involved in decisions to exclude a child from school?

School governors do not have to consider all exclusions, but they have to consider all exclusions which:

  • are permanent; or
  • would result in the child losing an opportunity to take a public examination or a National Curriculum test; or
  • meant that the child was to be given fixed term exclusions totalling more than 15 days in any school term(i).

How would I know if the child I am raising is excluded from school?

You should be informed in writing, immediately, if the child you are raising is given a fixed period exclusion. The letter from the school must tell you the reason for the exclusion, how long it will last, and your right to go to the school's governing body to express your views.

For longer or permanent exclusions, you have the right to attend a meeting of the school's governing body in person to express your views.

If you think the child you are raising has been excluded but you haven't received a letter telling you this by the end of the first day, you should contact the school, to check whether or not the child has been formally excluded. For information about unofficial exclusions see here.

Further information

What happens if a child is excluded from school
ACE Education School exclusion
Coram Children's Legal Centre School exclusions
Statutory guidance for maintained schools, academies and pupil referral units on the exclusion of pupils

(i) The School Discipline (Pupil Exclusions and Reviews) (England) Regulations 2012