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School Discipline and Exclusions

Good Behaviour

Your child's school should have a written policy setting out the standards of behaviour it expects. The policy should outline what the school will do if your child’s behaviour falls below these standards.

All pupils in a school benefit when behaviour is good. High standards of behaviour are important in helping children to feel safe and learn well, and parents and carers play a key part in this.

The government advises schools to focus on promoting positive behaviour, helping to build self-discipline and encouraging respect for others. But schools also need sanctions to deter pupils from misbehaving.

Behaviour policies

Schools should review their behaviour policies regularly and publicise them to parents, staff and pupils.

Behaviour policies should include a code of conduct for pupils. Rules on conduct can apply before and after school as well as during the school day. They can set expectations for how pupils will behave in corridors, in bus queues and at lunch and break times as well as in the classroom.


Schools have a legal right to impose reasonable sanctions if a pupil misbehaves. Sanctions a school might use include:

  • a reprimand
  • a letter to parents or carers
  • removal from a class or group
  • loss of privileges
  • confiscating something belonging to your child if it’s inappropriate for school (for example, a mobile phone or music player)
  • detention

Discipline and physical contact

Teachers can’t punish pupils physically, but can physically restrain them where it’s necessary to stop a pupil injuring him or herself or someone else, damaging property or causing serious disruption.

Certain members of school staff can search a pupil suspected of carrying a weapon, with or without their consent.


Detentions can take place during school hours, at lunchtime, after school or at weekends. If your child fails to attend without a reasonable excuse, the school may give them a more severe punishment.

You are entitled to 24 hours’ written notice of a detention that takes place outside normal school hours, so you can make arrangements for transport or childcare. The notice should tell you why the detention was given and how long your child will have to stay at school.

If your child cannot attend the detention, you can explain your reasons to your child’s teacher or headteacher. They may reconsider the detention in certain circumstances like:

  • the detention falls on an important religious day for your family
  • you’re concerned about the length and safety of the route between school and home
  • you can’t reasonably make alternative arrangements for collecting your child from school


There are two kinds of exclusions:

  • Fixed period exclusions (up to a maximum of 45 days in a school year)
  • Permanent exclusions

Fixed period exclusions

A child who gets into serious trouble at school can be excluded for a fixed period of time. Schools can exclude a child if:

  • they have seriously broken school rules
  • allowing them to stay in school would seriously harm their education or welfare, or the education or welfare of other pupils

Some other points to bear in mind are that:

  • only the headteacher or acting headteacher can exclude a child 
  • your child can't be given fixed period (non-permanent) exclusions which total more than 45 school days in any one school year
  • if your child is excluded for longer than one school day, the school should set work for them and mark it 

The school should call you on the day an exclusion is given and follow up with a letter including information on:

  • the period and reason for exclusion
  • your duty during the first five days of any exclusion to ensure that your child is not present in a public place during normal school hours, whether in the company of a parent or not
  • any arrangements made by the school that apply from the sixth day of the exclusion
More information on fixed period exclusions.

Permanent exclusions

A school will usually only permanently exclude a child as a last resort, after trying to improve the child's behaviour through other means. However, there are exceptional circumstances in which a headteacher may decide to permanently exclude a pupil for a 'one-off' offence.

If your child has been permanently excluded, be aware that:

  • the school's governing body is required to review the headteacher's decision and you may meet with them to explain your views on the exclusion
  • if the governing body confirms the exclusion, you can appeal to an independent appeal panel organised by the local authority
  • the school must explain in a letter how to lodge an appeal
  • the local authority must provide full-time education from the sixth day of a permanent exclusion

More information on permanent exclusions.

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