Suspension/ Permanent Exclusion Guidance

New statutory guidance from the DfE sets out what schools and local authorities must do to comply with the law:

Key changes include:

  • Headteachers may cancel an exclusion that has not been reviewed by the governing board. This practice is sometimes known as withdrawing/rescinding a suspension or permanent exclusion.
  • Governing board reinstatement meetings and IRPs can now be held via the use of remote access (for example, live video link) for suspension and permanent exclusions if requested by the parents, provided certain criteria are satisfied. Meetings held via the use of remote access should not be a default option and face to face meetings should always be encouraged

Updates from the 2022 guidance are as follows:

  • When headteachers suspend or permanently exclude a pupil they must, without delay, notify parents. Legislative changes mean that if a pupil has a social worker, or if a pupil is looked-after, the headteacher must now, also without delay after their decision, notify the social worker and/or VSH, as applicable.
  • When headteachers suspend or permanently exclude a pupil, they must also notify the local authority, without delay. Legislative changes mean that this must be done regardless of the length of a suspension.
  • New guidance on the role of a social worker and VSH, during governing board meetings and IRP meetings.
  • Updated guidance on managed moves, what they are and how they should be used.
  • Clarified guidance on the use of off-site direction as a short-term measure that can be used as part of a school’s behaviour management strategy.
  • Further guidance on the practice of involving pupils so that any excluded pupil is enabled and encouraged to participate at all stages of the suspension or permanent exclusion process, considering their age and ability to understand.
  • Guidance for governing boards to ensure that they review data to consider the level of pupil moves and the characteristics of pupils who have been permanently excluded to ensure the sanction is only used when necessary, as a last resort

 Fixed-Term Suspensions and Permanent Exclusions

The law does not allow for extending a suspension or ‘converting’ a suspension into a permanent exclusion. In exceptional cases, usually where further evidence has come to light, a further suspension may be issued to begin immediately after the first suspension ends; or a permanent exclusion may be issued to begin immediately after the end of the suspension. 

The Decision to Exclude 
The decision to exclude a pupil permanently should only be taken as a last resort and in response to a serious breach or persistent breaches of the school's behaviour policy and were 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.

School leaders must ensure that both criteria are fulfilled before issuing a permanent exclusion and that any explanation for the exclusion clearly references how they have been met; failure to do so will likely lead to robust challenge by Independent Review.

The headteacher must take account of their legal duty of care when sending a pupil home following a suspension or an exclusion.

Local Authority Support
To ensure schools comply with statutory guidance issued by the DfE, we recommend use of forms, templates and model letters developed by the Local Authority (see below).
Suspensions/Exclusion should be used as a last resort after all other options have been investigated. The NYC Ladder of Intervention provides structured, step-by-step guidance for schools to support individual pupils who have social and emotional needs manifesting in challenging behaviour that could lead to a suspension/exclusion. The guidance details a graduated response to ensure early help is in place to support children and young people with social, emotional and mental health needs, including those that are at risk of suspension/exclusion. Before taking the decision to suspend/exclude, consider the following:

  •  What whole-school approaches and provision are in place to support this pupil?

e.g., whole school behaviour policy and inclusive practice to support behaviour for learning, quality first teaching, etc. Are school policies inclusive or do they discriminate against particular pupils with specific needs?

  •  What measures or strategies has the school put in place to support this specific pupil?

e.g., behaviour plan, specific learning support, mental health and wellbeing advice, etc.

Have support and intervention been put in place and has enough time been allowed for the intervention or support to take effect?

  •  If there have been multiple, repeat suspensions/exclusions for similar reasons (e.g., abusive behaviour, drug use, etc.) what has been put in place to successfully address the causes? Where the school is repeatedly suspending/excluding for the same reason, this could indicate unmet needs.
  •  What support has been sought from outside agencies, including the Local Authority? Through its universal and targeted provision, the LA provides access to a range of services. Has school accessed any of the following?
  • SEND guidance (for pupils with Special Educational Needs or a Disability)Click here
  • Ladder of Intervention Click here
  • SEND Assessment (leading to an Education Health and Care Plan) Click here
  • The Pupil Referral Service (PRS) Click here or North Yorkshire Alternative Provision Panel (NYAPP) Click here
  • Referral to the Locality Hubs to support additional educational and/or social, emotional and mental health needs Click here
  • Advice and support from an Educational Psychologist Click here, the Early Help Service Click here , Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) Click here , Youth Justice Service Click here  or Children’s Social Care Click here
  • An Early Help (EH) Assessment and Action Plan Click here

Useful Documents (updated November 2023)

      5.  Clerking Pupil Discipline (updated September 2023)

      11. Governor Summary (updated November 2023)

      12. Headteacher Summary (updated September 2023)