School admissions 2011

School discipline and exclusions

1. Discipline

School behaviour policy

Every school has a behaviour policy, which lists the rules of conduct for pupils before and after school as well as during the school day.The policy should also say what the school does to prevent bullying.You can ask the school for a copy of the policy document.


Schools can punish pupils if they behave badly.

Examples of punishments (sometimes called ‘sanctions’) include:

  • a telling-off
  • a letter home
  • removal from a class or group
  • confiscating something inappropriate for school , eg mobile phone or MP3 player
  • detention


Schools don’t have to give parents notice of after-school detentions or tell them why a detention has been given.

Physical contact

School staff can use reasonable force to control and restrain pupils. This could include leading a pupil by the arm into a classroom.

Complaining about a punishment

If you disagree with the way your child’s been punished, first talk to the headteacher. If you’re not satisfied, ask for a copy of the complaints procedure.

2. Exclusions

Headteachers can exclude your child if they misbehave in or outside school.

What happens when your child is excluded?

Your child’s school will let you know about an exclusion as soon as possible. They’ll follow up with a letter telling you how long your child is excluded for and why.

You should also be told how to challenge the exclusion, if you want to.

Exclusions can start on the same day but the school shouldn’t make you collect your child straight away.

Risk of prosecution if child is found in public place

For the first 5 school days of an exclusion, it’s your responsibility to make sure your child isn’t in a public place during normal school hours unless there is a good reason.

You might be prosecuted if your child is found in a public place when they’re not supposed to be.

Child Law Advice has more information on what happens when a child is excluded.

Types of exclusion

There are 2 kinds of exclusion - fixed period (suspended) and permanent (expelled).

Fixed period exclusion

A fixed period exclusion is where your child is temporarily removed from school. They can only be removed for up to 45 school days in one school year, even if they’ve changed school.

If a child has been excluded for a fixed period, schools should set and mark work for the first 5 school days.

If the exclusion is longer than 5 school days, the school must arrange suitable full-time education from the sixth school day, eg at a pupil referral unit.

Permanent exclusion

Permanent exclusion means your child is expelled. Your local council must arrange full-time education from the sixth school day.

Alternative education and exclusion

The school or local council must tell you about any alternative education they arrange. It’s your responsibility to make sure your child attends.

Making a complaint

If alternative education isn’t arranged within 5 days, or you’re not happy with the education, you can complain to:

If you’re not happy with the response, you can complain to the Department for Education (DfE).You’ll need to show that you followed the school or council’s complaints procedure.

3. Challenging exclusion

You’ll get a letter from the school telling you what to do if you disagree with the exclusion.You can ask the school’s governing body to overturn the exclusion if either:

  • your child has been excluded for more than 5 days
  • the exclusion means they’ll miss a public exam or national curriculum test

If the exclusion is for 5 days or fewer, you can still ask the governors to hear your views but they can’t overturn the headteacher’s decision.

Challenging permanent exclusion

You’ll be invited to a review meeting with the school’s governors if your child has been permanently excluded. This will happen within 15 school days. If the governors don’t overturn the exclusion, you can ask for an independent review by your local council (or academy trustif the school’s an academy). The governors must tell you how to do this. If your child is still excluded you can ask the Local Government Ombudsman (or the Education Funding Agencyif the school’s an academy or free school) to look at whether your case was handled properly. They can’t overturn the exclusion.

Discrimination and other complaints

You can make a claim to a court or a tribunal if you think your child’s been discriminatedagainst. You need to do this within 6 months of the exclusion. Contact the Equality Advisory Support Service for help and advice. For more general complaints (eg if you don’t want to challenge the exclusion but you’re not happy with the way the school handled it), follow the normal school complaints process.

4. Searches

Searches without your child’s consent

The school doesn’t need your child’s consent to search them if they think your child has prohibited items, including:

  • weapons, eg knives
  • alcohol
  • illegal drugs
  • stolen goods
  • tobacco products, eg cigarettes
  • pornographic images (of any kind, eg tabloid topless pictures and ‘lads’ mags’ as well as extreme adult material)
  • fireworks
  • anything that has been, or is likely to be, used to cause injury or commit an offence
  • anything banned in the school rules

These things can be confiscated.

Legal requirements of a search

There should normally be 2 members of staff present during the search - the person doing the search and the search witness. Searches should normally be done by someone the same sex as your child. The search witness must also be the same sex as your child if possible. Your child must not be asked to remove clothes, other than outer clothing like a coat. If there’s a risk of serious harm to a person if the search is not conducted immediately, a child may be searched by a person of the opposite sex and without another member of staff present.

Metal detectors

Schools can make pupils go through a metal detector - they don’t have to suspect that your child has a weapon. If your child refuses to go through the metal detector, they can be stopped from coming into school.

Complaining about a search

If you’re unhappy with a search on your child at school, talk to the headteacher. If you’re not satisfied, ask for a copy of the complaints procedure.