Discipline in schools

New law in force

The Equality Act came into force on 1 October 2010. Some of the information on this page may be out of date.

Schools are expected to set rules in relation to conduct both inside and outside the school. All schools must have a disciplinary regime which promotes good behaviour and sets out what action they will take if pupils are disruptive or break their school 's own code.

Increasingly, schools are expected to involve children and parents in developing their disciplinary policies. In England and Wales, parents are asked to sign up to home-school agreements, showing that they support the school 's approach and will ensure that their children follow the rules on attendance, discipline and homework. Pupils should be directly involved in the drafting of any home-school agreements and are also required to sign them.

See government guidance on creating a home-school agreement.

Read guidance on school disciplinary policies.

Schools in Scotland are encouraged to involve parents as much as possible in developing home school partnerships. Find out more from the ltscotland website.

Corporal punishment

Corporal punishment is now banned in all schools, including independent schools, in line with the human right to live without threats or mistreatment. Teachers are allowed to use other forms of punishment to impose school discipline, including after school detention.

Exclusion

Children can be excluded from school for a short time if they have broken a rule that the school considers important. They can be excluded permanently (expelled) if the school decides that their behaviour has been unacceptable.

Exclusions should only be used as a last resort. They can be for one or more fixed period but cannot exceed 45 days in one school year, unless it is a permanent exclusion.

In England and Wales, the head teacher must:

  • inform the child 's parents of the exclusion
  • inform the child and parents of the reason for the exclusion
  • state whether he or she intends to apply for permanent exclusion, and
  • explain what rights parents and pupils have to appeal about the exclusion to the school governors or the local authority.

If pupils aren 't told about their right to appeal, the decision to exclude could be the subject of judicial review.

The school governors can order the headmaster to reinstate a child who has been excluded.

The parents of a student who is not reinstated after an appeal can take an appeal to an education panel.

In Scotland, the local authority must, on the day upon which a decision to exclude a pupil is taken, inform the child's parents of:

  • the decision to exclude, and
  • the date, time and place where the headteacher, teacher or official of the education authority, can discuss the decision with them. This meeting must be within seven days of the decision to exclude.

The authority must subsequently write to the child or parent to inform them of:

  • why the child was excluded
  • the right of appeal and how to do so, and
  • any other relevant information, such as a proposed action plan which sets out respective roles and responsibilities for the child's return to the school, if applicable.

An appeal is then made to the Education Appeals Committee. If a child is not reinstated after this hearing, another appeal can be made to the sheriff court.

Permanently excluded pupils

If a child has been permanently excluded (expelled) from any school, the local authority has a duty to provide other suitable education. This may be:

  • at another school in the area;
  • at a school in another education authority area; or
  • a local special educational unit (or other special arrangements in Scotland).

Schools can only refuse to take a pupil if they have been permanently excluded from at least two schools. This rule applies for a period of two years after the second exclusion. It does not apply if a pupil has been reinstated following the exclusion once under this rule, then neither the parents nor the pupil can appeal.

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