School discipline, suspensions and expulsions
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.
Promoting good behaviour
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.
Schools should review their discipline/positive behaviour policies regularly and publicise them to parents, staff and pupils. The precise content of a school’s policy is a matter for each school to decide in consultation with parents.
Discipline/positive 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)
Teachers can’t punish pupils physically. They 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.
Your child and detention
Detentions can take place during school hours, at lunchtime, after school or at weekends. If your child fails to be there 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 be at the detention, you can explain your reasons to your child’s teacher or headteacher. They may rethink the detention in certain circumstances, such as:
- 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
A child who gets into serious trouble at school can be suspended for a fixed period of time. Schools can suspend 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 Principal can suspend a pupil
- an initial suspension must not exceed five days
- the Principal cannot extend a period of suspension without the previous approval of the Chair of the Board of Governors
- your child can only be suspended for a maximum of 45 school days in any one school year
- your child’s school is responsible for providing them with suitable work to do and mark it although you may be asked to collect the work from the school and return it when your child has completed it
The school should call you on the day your child is suspended. The Principal must also provide immediate written notification to you, the Chair of the Board of Governors and the Education Authority (EA) in your region or Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS).
The letter should set out the period and reason for the suspension.
A school will usually only expel a pupil as a last resort after trying to improve the pupil’s behaviour through other means. However, there are exceptional circumstances in which a school may decide to expel a pupil for a ‘one-off’ offence.
The decision to expel your child can only be taken by the expelling authority. In the case of controlled schools, this is the EA and, in the case of all other grant-aided schools, it is the Board of Governors of the school.
A decision to expel can only be made after a consultation meeting takes place between the Principal, the Chairperson of the Board of Governors, you, your child, a representative from the EA in your region, or if your child attends a Catholic Maintained School, a representative from CCMS.
There should be a written record of the meeting and your child’s future education should be part of the discussion.
If the expelling authority decides to expel your child, they must explain in writing your right to appeal to the Expulsions Appeals Tribunal.
The EA in your region is required to make arrangements for suitable education for your child until they go to another school.