Suspension & Exclusion Policy V3 2023

In this document

1.0 Policy Statement

1.1 This policy covers all pupils across the Beckfoot Trust. We are mindful not to discriminate against children on the basis of protected characteristics such as disability. Headteachers may exclude for one or more fixed term periods (up to a maximum of 45 school days in a single academic year) or permanently. Pupils can be excluded for full days or parts of a day or from the premises at lunchtime if behaviour at this time is disruptive. Following more serious incidents the Headteacher can exclude for five days in the first instance to fully investigate any incident that may lead to permanent exclusion. The trust school has the duty to make an arrangement for education if a fixed-term exclusion goes beyond five days.

2.0 Scope and Purpose

This policy describes the stages of the exclusion/suspension process. It should be read in conjunction with, and not in place of, statutory guidance from the Department for Education (DfE).

By law, schools must conform to the provisions of the current national guidance when a pupil is suspended/excluded from school. The current guidance was updated in September 2023 and can be found online at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-exclusion.

This policy should be read in conjunction with the following policies:

  • Trust Care and Control
  • Trust Child Protection and Safeguarding
  • Trust Behaviour (and local school behaviour / anti-bullying protocol)
  • Trust SEND

This policy is underpinned by the following legislation and guidance:

  • Education Act (1996)
  • Education and Inspections Act (2006)
  • Education Act (2011)
  • School Discipline Regulations (2012)
  • Education [Provision of Full time Education for Excluded Pupils] Regulations (2007, amended 2014)
  • Keeping Children Safe in Education (2023)

Definitions

Exclusion – when a pupil is removed from the register at the school, with the local authority (LA) having to find alternative provision for them.

Suspension – used to describe a fixed period exclusion, where a pupil is temporarily removed from school. A pupil can be suspended for one or more fixed periods (including parts of the school day) up to a maximum of 45 school days in an academic year. If a child reaches 45 days, the school may decide to permanently exclude for persistent disruptive behaviour.

3.0 Overarching Principles

Beckfoot Trust aims to ensure that:

  • The exclusions process is applied lawfully, reasonably, fairly and consistently
  • The exclusions process is understood by the Trust board, staff, parents and pupils
  • Pupils in school are safe and happy and their right to education is protected
  • Good discipline is maintained to ensure that all pupils can benefit from the opportunities provided by education
  • The trust does not discriminate against pupils on the basis of protected characteristics, such as disability or race
  • The trust gives particular consideration to the fair treatment of pupils from groups who are vulnerable to exclusion, providing additional support where necessary to meet expectations
  • That pupil’s unmet needs are identified and early intervention is implemented to reduce further exclusion
  • Excluded pupils and their parents/carers are enabled and encouraged to participate at all stages of the exclusion process, taking into account their age and ability to understand
  • Pupils do not become NEET (not in education, employment or training)

4.0 Responsibilities and Arrangements

4.1 Prevention

Each school is committed to making full use of preventative measures, as outlined in detail in the Behaviour Policy, as their main way of avoiding exclusion of any kind for all students. Students will not be excluded unless it is absolutely necessary to do so and if it is felt that no other viable alternative is available, such as in response to serious or continuous breaches of the Behaviour Policy or if the student remaining would harm the education or welfare of other students or staff.

In addition to the measures outlined in the Behaviour Policy, and other than in the case of a one-off but very serious behaviour incident, the permanent exclusion of a student will be the final sanction at the end of a lengthy series of procedures that have been put in place to support the student to improve their behaviour. These procedures may include but are not limited to:

  • An identified key worker within their academy
  • Review of their curriculum provision, class / group, seating arrangements, non-lesson time etc.
  • Therapeutic support available within the academy e.g. counselling, youth worker, SSPO
  • Pastoral Support Plan
  • Referral to external agencies e.g. CAMHS, Educational Psychology, Youth Services
  • Referral to the services provided by the Local Authority’s Early Help offer
  • Referral for a needs assessment for an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP)
  • For students who are looked after by the Local Authority, liaison with the Virtual School
  • For students who are on Child in Need or Child Protection Plans, liaison with their social worker
  • For students who have an existing EHCP or identified SEND, liaison with the Local Authority SEND team

All students are entitled to the full extent of our preventative measures and support, but we also recognise that there are some students who, due to other factors present in their life, may be additionally vulnerable in relation to all types of exclusion. These additional vulnerabilities can both increase risk of exclusion as well as exacerbate the negative impacts of being excluded. These additional vulnerabilities may include but are not limited to:

  • Special Educational Needs and / or Disabilities (with or without an EHCP)
  • Medical needs
  • Mental Health needs
  • Young carers
  • Children who are looked after by the Local Authority, including those who were formerly looked after
  • Children who are on a Child in Need or Child Protection Plan

The Trust is committed to recognising these additional vulnerabilities and prioritising affected students when working preventatively and supportively with them and their families. This may, for example, be by providing support at an earlier stage, a broader package of support, or by involving specialists from other agencies.

Our success as a Trust is built on the three-way relationship between home, academy and child. All families enter this partnership when their child enters one of our academies and, with that as the starting point, we expect families to work alongside us in supporting good behaviour and the measures we put in place to support their child to enjoy, learn and succeed.

Off-site direction to another school or alternative provision, either full time or as part of a combination of this and continued mainstream provision, can be a supportive preventative measure for some students at risk of exclusion. Full statutory and non-statutory guidance can be found in the publication, Suspension and Permanent Exclusion (2022), and must be adhered whenever off-site direction is being considered.

A managed move to another school can also be a supportive preventative measure for some students at risk of exclusion. Managed moves should only be offered as a permanent transfer, only when the student has been attending the receiving school under an off-site direction and review has deemed that they have settled in successfully, and only when voluntary and agreed with all parties involved, including families and the receiving school itself.

4.2 The Headteacher’s Power to Suspend or Permanently Exclude

Headteachers can use suspension and permanent exclusion as a sanction, when warranted, as part of creating a calm, safe, and supportive environment in which pupils can learn and thrive. To achieve this, suspension and permanent exclusion form a ‘last resort’ part of a functioning behaviour system, where it is accepted that not all pupil behaviour can be amended or remedied by pastoral processes or consequences within the school.

The Trust Board and Leaders will work collaboratively to develop behaviour principles, policy and a culture which minimises the risk of exclusion. School leaders will put in place strategies designed to prevent school exclusions, in line with the statutory guidance and best practice.

Headteachers can use suspensions in response to serious incidents or persistent behaviours which have not improved following in-school sanctions and interventions.

The decision to permanently exclude a pupil must only be taken:

  • In response to a serious breach or persistent breaches of the school’s behaviour policy, and:
  • Where 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.
  • The issuing of a fixed term (now known as suspensions) or permanent exclusion is at the discretion of the Headteacher, and reasons may include, but are not limited to:
  • Physical assault against another student
  • Physical assault against an adult
  • Verbal abuse or threatening behaviour against another student
  • Verbal abuse or threatening behaviour against an adult
  • Use or threat of use of an offensive weapon or prohibited item
  • Peer on peer abuse
  • Racist abuse
  • Abuse against sexual orientation or gender reassignment
  • Abuse relating to disability

There may be exceptional circumstances where, in the Headteacher’s judgement, it is appropriate to permanently exclude a child for a first or ‘one off’ offence. This could include but is not limited to:

  • Serious actual or threatened violence against another student or member of staff
  • Sexual, racial or homophobic assault
  • Supplying or using an illegal drug
  • Carrying an offensive weapon

4.3 The Suspension/Exclusion Process

4.3.1 Stage one: Headteacher notifies parties of their decision

When a Headteacher suspends or excludes a pupil, they must, without delay, notify parents of the length of the suspension or exclusion and the reason(s) for it. The school must also alert parents to their right to make representations to the Trust Board and outline how representations can be made.

All schools must provide information via the school census on any student subject to fixed term or permanent exclusion in the previous two terms and up to three reasons can be recorded per exclusion.

Any time a student is told or forced to leave the academy, or not allowed to attend, is either a fixed term (if temporary) or permanent exclusion if it is for disciplinary reasons and must be done in accordance with this policy and the statutory regulations that inform it. Excluding a student for a short period of time, such as a half day, is allowed but the formal process for a fixed term suspension, including recording of the exclusion, must be followed.

A student being told or forced to leave the academy, or not allowed to attend, without the formal process being followed is unlawful. Reasons a school might do this include but are not limited to:

  • The student having Special Educational Needs that the school feels they cannot meet
  • Failure of student and / or families to attend a meeting at the end of the fixed term exclusion
  • Putting pressure on a family to remove their child, possibly under the threat of permanent exclusion, and encouraging Elective Home Education or to find another school place

If any of these unlawful exclusions are carried out and lead to the deletion of a student’s name from the register, this is known as ‘off-rolling’.

If a family feels that the procedures relating to an exclusion have not been followed, or they feel pressured into home educating or finding another school for their child, they can use the Complaints Policy to raise this with the Governing Body.

All schools have a statutory duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of their students, including a duty to cooperate with the local statutory safeguarding partnership agencies, and any decision to exclude a student must be made with due regard to the most recently published version of Keeping Children Safe in Education.

All decisions to exclude should be made with the support and advice of the Designated Safeguarding Lead in order to ensure any known additional risk of harm to the student that might arise or be exacerbated by an exclusion are considered.

4.3.2 Suspension notification requirements

The Headteacher must inform relevant parties of a suspension as follows:

  • The Trust Board must be informed where the suspension would result in the pupil being suspended for a total of six or more school days in a term, or where the suspension would result in the pupil missing a public examination or national curriculum test. The headteacher must also inform the Trust Board once per term of any other suspensions.
  • The LA must be informed without delay of all suspensions regardless of their length.
  • The Headteacher must, without delay, also notify the social worker (if a pupil has one), and the virtual school head (VSH) if the pupil is a looked-after child.

4.3.3 Education provision during a suspension

Where the suspension exceeds five days, the Trust Board is responsible for ensuring suitable alternative full-time education is arranged for the pupil from the sixth day. However, schools should ensure provision is in place as soon as is practical.

4.3.4 Permanent exclusion notification requirements

In the case of permanent exclusion, the Headteacher must inform the following without delay:

  • The Trust Board and LA.
  • The pupil’s social worker (if the pupil has one), and the Virtual School Head (VSH) if the pupil is a looked-after child.
  • The pupil’s ‘home authority’ (if the pupil lives outside the school’s local authority area) who is responsible for ensuring suitable alternative full-time education.

4.3.5 Cancelling a suspension or exclusion

Headteachers may cancel (withdraw/rescind) a suspension or exclusion that has begun but has not yet been reviewed by the Trust Board as per current guidance. If this occurs, the parents, Trust Board and LA should be notified, and if relevant, the social worker and VSH. Parents should have the opportunity to discuss the circumstances of the cancellation with the Headteacher.

Schools should report the number and circumstances of such cancellations to the Trust Board each term to enable oversight of the effectiveness and consistency of suspension and exclusion.

4.4 Trust Board panel reviews the Headteacher’s decision

The Trust Board must consider the Headteacher’s decision to suspend or exclude a pupil in the circumstances set out below and in accordance with the flow chart on page 38 of the DfE guidance.

4.4.1 A suspension which brings the pupil’s total suspension days to five or fewer in a term.

The Trust Board must consider representations made by parents, but it is not required to arrange a meeting with parents and cannot direct reinstatement.

4.4.2 A suspension which brings a pupil’s total suspension days to more than five but less than 15 days in a term.

The Trust Board must consider reinstatement, if parents request this, within 50 school days of being notified of the suspension. In the absence of any representations from parents, the Trust Board is not required to meet and cannot direct the reinstatement of the pupil.

4.4.3 Permanent exclusion or suspension which would bring the pupil’s total suspension days to more than 15 in a term.

The Trust Board must consider reinstatement within 15 school days of being notified of the suspension/exclusion, regardless of whether the parents make representations.

4.4.4 Where a pupil’s suspension or exclusion would cause them to miss a public examination or national curriculum test.

The Trust Board must make reasonable efforts to meet and consider reinstatement before the date of the exam. If this is not practical, the Trust Board must consider reinstatement within 15 school days.

4.4.5 Forming a panel/committee

The mechanism for considering reinstatement is a meeting whereby a panel/committee of trustees determine whether the Headteacher’s decision to exclude was lawful, reasonable, and procedurally fair. The Trust Board may delegate this to a committee or panel (known as a pupil discipline committee (PDC)) to hear. The membership of the panel may include, Trustees, senior Trust staff and members of local school committees.

The statutory guidance says that the PDC should also take account of the welfare and safeguarding of the pupil and their peers, the Headteacher’s legal duties, and any evidence presented to them.

4.4.6 Arranging the meeting

The PDC meeting should be professionally clerked. The clerk has an important role in arranging and supporting the PDC meeting and providing procedural advice and producing the outcome letter.

The clerk must invite the following parties to the meeting:

  • The Headteacher
  • The pupil’s parents
  • The pupil’s social worker (if the pupil has one) and VSH (if the pupil is a looked-after child)
  • A representative of the LA, if requested by the parents. In the event that the parent invites the LA to attend, they can only attend as an observer and may only make representations with the PDC’s consent.
  • The pupil should also be made aware of their right to attend, where appropriate, taking into account the pupil’s age and understanding. The pupil should be enabled to make a representation on their own behalf if they wish to do so.
  • Parents and pupils can be accompanied by a friend or representative at the meeting.

The Trust board must make reasonable endeavours to arrange the meeting within the statutory time limits set out above (5.2.1 – 5.2.4) and must try to have it at a time that suits all relevant parties. However, the decision of the PDC will not be invalid simply on the grounds that it was not made within these time limits.

4.4.7 Reasonable adjustments

The school, Trust Board and clerk need to ensure they have fulfilled their responsibility to make reasonable adjustments so that all parties can attend and contribute fully to the meeting. This may include, for example, adjustments for pupils or parents with disabilities. The pupil should be encouraged to attend and speak on their own behalf. This could involve allowing them to bring a friend, or, if their attendance is not possible, suggesting an alternative means of feeding their views into the hearing (e.g. by written statement, voice recording etc).

4.4.8 Circulating evidence and information

The PDC should receive written evidence and other information relating to the exclusion in advance of the meeting. Where possible, the clerk should circulate this to all parties, including the PDC, at least five school days before the meeting. This may include, but is not limited to:

  • A list of all those who will be present at the PDC meeting
  • Relevant policies (the behaviour policy in particular)
  • Relevant suspension / exclusion letters
  • Parents’ written representations in support of their child
  • Witness statements (these can be from the headteacher, the pupil’s teachers, the designated safeguarding lead, the pupil themselves, their parent(s) and, if applicable, the designated teacher for looked-after children, the pupil’s social worker, and VSH)
  • The pupil’s behaviour record
  • Photographs and videos such as CCTV recordings (subject to data protection considerations)
  • Evidence of support and interventions attempted prior to exclusion.

4.4.9 Minutes of the meeting

The clerk should take detailed minutes throughout the meeting which state the evidence and information considered by the PDC, including questions and answers. The minutes should state how decisions were reached (the clerk should be present during the PDC’s decision making) as they may be referred to by an independent panel if called upon to review the PDC’s decision. The minutes should be made available to all parties, upon request, but otherwise should remain confidential.

4.5 Written notification of the decision

The PDC must, without delay, inform the Headteacher, the parent, the LA (along with the pupil’s home authority, where applicable) and, where relevant, the pupil’s social worker and/or the VSH of their decision and the justification for it in writing.

The governing board should set out the reasons for its decision in sufficient detail to enable all parties to understand why the decision was made.

In some cases, the Trust Board is not required to inform parents about their decision to reinstate a pupil following a short-term suspension (where the pupil is likely to have returned to school already).

A note should be made on the pupil’s educational record, whatever the decision, and copies of relevant papers should be kept for at least six months in case a discrimination claim is made.

4.6 Parents’ right to appeal permanent exclusion

Where the PDC decides not to reinstate the pupil in the case of a permanent exclusion, it must provide the parents with the following information in addition to the above:

  • Notification of their right to appeal to an independent review panel (IRP) within 15 school days of receipt of the PDC’s decision
  • Where and to whom this appeal (and any written evidence) should be submitted (usually the clerk of the IRP)
  • That their application for a review should set out the grounds on which it is being made and that, where appropriate, this should include a reference to how the pupil’s special educational needs and disability (SEND) is considered to be relevant to the permanent exclusion
  • The parents’ right to ask a SEND expert to attend the IRP (regardless of whether the pupil has recognised SEND) and an explanation of what the expert does
  • That they may appoint someone to make written and/or oral representations on their behalf, at their own expense
  • What to do if the parents think that there has been discrimination in the decision (they may make a claim to the First-Tier Tribunal under the Equality Act 2010 in cases of disability discrimination, and for other types of discrimination that they can make a claim to the County Court), and that such action must be taken within six months of the date that the pupil was excluded

If the parents fail to apply for an IRP within the stipulated timeframe, or if they state in writing that they will not pursue a review, then the Trust Board is responsible for ensuring that the name of the permanently excluded pupil is removed from the school admissions register.

4.7 Independent Review of The Board’s Decision

An Independent Review Panel (IRP) must be convened if the parents apply for an independent review within 15 school days of having been informed of the Trust Board’s decision, or within 15 school days of the final determination that the exclusion arose from unlawful discrimination.

4.7.1 The role of the IRP

An IRP is convened to review the Trust Board’s decision not to reinstate a permanently excluded pupil. It must decide whether the Trust Board’s decision was flawed owing to illegality, irrationality or procedural impropriety. The IRP will consider the interests and circumstances of the excluded pupil and have regard to other pupils and school staff.

Following its review, the IRP has three options:

  • Uphold the decision of the Trust Board
  • Recommend that the Trust Board reconsiders reinstatement
  • Quash the decision and direct the Trust Board to reconsider reinstatement.

4.7.2 IRP arrangements and procedure

The Trust may choose to delegate the arrangements for an IRP to a service provider.

The trust or service provider will appoint a clerk for the hearing (who should not have served as clerk for the original PDC which made the decision not to reinstate the pupil).

IRP procedures and the duties of IRP members, the clerk and the SEN expert are covered in parts nine and ten of the statutory guidance relating to exclusions. This includes the possibility of relevant parties (such as the pupil, parent and PDC) making representations to the IRP and attending the hearing.

The review must begin within 15 school days of the day on which the parent’s application for a review was made.

4.8 Trust Board Revisit Their Decision

If, as a result of the IRP, the Trust Board is directed or recommended to review its original decision, it must do so within 10 school days of notification. The Trust Board should reconsider reinstatement using a thorough process, regardless of whether it is a direction or recommendation of the IRP.

4.8.1 Process for reconsidering reinstatement

A panel of trustees or a delegated committee (which may include senior staff members, trustees and local school committee members) will need to convene a meeting to reconsider reinstatement. Wherever possible, the individuals who were part of the original PDC should not be involved at this stage.

Individuals involved in reconsidering the decision are not required to receive representations or hear evidence from relevant parties. However, it is important that any new information and evidence that