Everything you need to know about school exclusions


This is a post I wish I didn’t have to write but sadly it is far too common for children with additional needs to find themselves excluded from school. Just this week I have spoken to three parents facing exclusion, two of them with children aged just 5 & 6.  It is beyond me how anyone can justify exclusion of children in reception but it does happen. 

Types of exclusions you may come across:

  • Permanent exclusions
  • Fixed term exclusions
  • Internal exclusions
  • Informal exclusions
  • Managed moves
  • Off Rolling
  • Reduced / Part-Time Timetable
  • Exclusion from school clubs and trips

Permanent exclusion

A permanent exclusion is when a child is expelled from school.  Only the Headteacher of a school can exclude a pupil and it must be on disciplinary grounds.  The most common reason for permanent exclusions is ‘persistent disruptive behaviour’. The child will be removed from the school roll and the local authority will need to find alternative provision.

‘It is unlawful to exclude for a non-disciplinary reason. For example, it would be unlawful to exclude a pupil simply because they have additional needs or a disability that the school feels it is unable to meet’

Department of Education

Fixed term exclusions

Fixed Term exclusions or suspensions is when a child is removed from a school temporarily.  A child can legally only be removed from school for up to 45 days a year.

Internal exclusions

Internal exclusions are used to remove a child from the class but not the school site.  Whilst it is a formal process it is not a legal exclusion so exclusion legislation does not apply. Schools should have  behaviour policy that should explain their use of internal exclusions.  They should not be used long-term or to avoid meeting support needs of a child.

school transition

Informal exclusions

On occasion a school may ask parents to take a child home to ‘cool off’ or have them at home without any formal exclusion being recorded. This is actually unlawful even if the parents have agreed to it. Any exclusion even for a short period of time should be formally recorded.

Managed Moves

A Managed Move is when parents and school agree that a new school would benefit a child who may otherwise be at risk of exclusion.  This needs to be a joint decision and the threat of exclusion should not be used to pressure parents into removing their child from a school.


Schools have a responsibility to provide an education to the children who are on roll and for whom they receive money.  There are times when a child is taken off the school roll for legitimate reasons like if a family chooses to home educate.  However there are many families pressured into leaving a school without any formal exclusion.  The process of encouraging parents to remove their child from a school is known as off-rolling.

You should only ever off-roll from a school if you are choosing to home educate.  If a school placement breaks down make sure you stay on roll so that the local authority has a responsibility to work out a plan for alternative provision. Once you have off-rolled the local authority no longer has a responsibility to provide education so please only do this by choice.

Reduced / Part-Time Timetables

Reduced or part time timetables are commonly used for reception age children, schools will often justify this saying the child is not yet at the compulsory school age or not ready for school.  However it may be the school that is not meeting its duty to make reasonable adjustments. In some cases parents may be able to argue that under the Equality Act 2010 their child is being denied access to what is offered to their peers, for reasons related to their disability. Unless it can be justified it is likely that only allowing a disabled child to attend  part time because the school does not have the resources support them is discrimination under the law.  Reduced and part time timetables may be used in exceptional circumstances if they meet the needs of that individual child however it should not be because a school lacks resources.

Exclusion from school clubs and trips

Sadly it is quite common for our children to be excluded from school clubs or trips based on lack of resources.  Schools have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to ensure that they:

  • Do not treat disabled pupils less favorably for a reason related to their disability and
  • To take all reasonable steps (or make all reasonable adjustments) to ensure that disabled pupils are not put at a substantial disadvantage

This includes at school clubs and trips.


If you think your child’s exclusion is unlawful or amounts to disability discrimination you can appeal to the First-Tier Tribunal (SEND).  This needs to be done within 6 months of an exclusion.  See the National Autistic Society guide on appeals for more information.

Support in School

Getting support at school is needs based – you do not need a diagnosis to access special educational needs support.

‘Early intervention to address underlying causes of disruptive behaviour should include an assessment of whether appropriate provision is in place to support any SEN or disability that a pupil may have. The head teacher should also consider the use of a multi-agency assessment for a pupil who demonstrates persistent disruptive behaviour. Such assessments may pick up unidentified SEN..’

Department of Education

Schools have a legal duty to ensure that children who are struggling get support.  Teachers should be varying teaching methods to suit your child (differentiation).

If persistent disruptive behaviour is an issue the school should put a behaviour plan in place to support your child. There needs to be a clear plan in place sometimes called a pastoral support plan.  

For some children the school environment may be a big barrier to learning, if this is the case they should be able to stay on roll yet be educated in a different setting that has been agreed.  This might be with an alternative learning provider (ALP) or the Hospital Education Service.  There are Alternatives to mainstream schooling see my post on school / education types.

support for autistic adults

Further Information / Support

You will find advice on the National Autistic Society website including resources and letter templates in their exclusions section alongside information on unlawful and unofficial exclusions.

Government Statutory Guidance

Not Fine In School

Independent Provider of Special Education Advice (IPSEA)

Special Needs Jungle

Just for Kids Law

Was this article helpful?


  1. 11th February 2022 / 6:43 am

    Such an important article, Jade. One of my children was massively let down at a previous school and, I believe, illegally excluded, both by fixed term episodes and then internally. It was horrendous and nearly destroyed her. It took over a year to get her back on track at a better school but we had to repeat a year. Schools can go through a tick box exercise to cover themselves on the face of it with the primary goal being to get that child out if their school. My daughter was 6. X

  2. David
    15th January 2024 / 5:11 pm

    What a great page, thank you.

    It has got worse, has it not?

    • admin
      4th February 2024 / 12:53 pm

      Glad you found it helpful. Unfortunately things do seem to be getting harder for many students. I think its a combination of the covid effect (students having seen it can be done differently) and that there have been so many cuts to education having a huge impact on the number of TA’s support staff in schools.

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