News story

Disruptive children: new rules restore headteachers’ power to exclude

Information about new rules to prevent excluded children returning to school against the headteacher's wishes.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

New rules published today will put an end to excluded pupils winning the right to come back to school against the headteacher’s wishes.

Coming into force from this September, the new regulations will apply to maintained schools, academies and pupil referral units. The changes were legislated through the 2011 Education Act.

Currently when a headteacher excludes a child from school, the school can be forced by an appeals panel to re-admit that child. This can lead to a disruptive child continuing to damage their own education as well as that of others - as well as undermining the headteacher’s authority.

Under the new system, headteachers will have the power to exclude a child as long as the decision is legal, reasonable and fair. If the new review panels believe this has not been the case, they will be able to require schools to revisit their decision. They will not be able to force the school to take back the child.

Supporting schools to promote good behaviour is vital to enabling all pupils to achieve their full potential, regardless of their circumstances.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:

Raising standards of behaviour in schools is a key priority of the government. It is a vital building block in the government’s objective of raising academic achievement and closing the attainment gap between those from poorer and wealthier backgrounds.

Restoring the authority of teachers and headteachers is an important part of the objective of raising standards of behaviour in schools. When head teachers decide that they have no choice but to expel a persistently disruptive or uncooperative pupil that decision must not be undermined by an appeal process which can result in the pupil returning to the school against the wishes of the school and its leadership.

These new rules preserve the right to have a decision to expel a child reviewed by an independent panel but take away the power to force the return of the pupil to the school.

The new independent review panels will provide a fair and accessible process for considering exclusion decisions in a way that takes account of the impact that poor behaviour can have on the education and welfare of other pupils.

The new exclusions system will also provide additional safeguards for pupils with special educational needs (SEN), in particular through the introduction of the role of SEN experts to advise independent review panels.

In addition, in all cases where schools stand by the decision to exclude following a direction by the review panel to reconsider its decision, schools would have to provide a payment of £4,000 towards the cost of alternative provision for the excluded child.

Ultimately, the government’s intention is to reduce the need for exclusion by supporting schools to manage behaviour and intervene earlier to address any underlying causes. The government is currently trialling a new approach in a number of local authorities with around 300 secondary schools, where schools retain responsibility for permanently excluded pupils and work in partnership to secure better outcomes for pupils at risk of exclusion.

In the academic year 2009 to 2010 there were 5,740 permanent exclusions and 331,380 fixed period exclusions in England. In the same period, 510 appeals against permanent exclusions were heard in the academic year 2009 to 2010. Of these, 110 appeals were determined in favour of the parent, and reinstatement of the pupil was directed in 30 cases.


This press notice relates to England only

Notes for editors

  1. Latest figures on school exclusions can be found in ‘Permanent and fixed period exclusions from schools in England 2009/10’.

  2. The Department for Education will shortly be publishing revised guidance supporting the new system for exclusions. It will be available online at the DfE website.

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Published 13 April 2012