How to review your suspension and permanent exclusion policy

Be clear on what your suspension and permanent exclusion policy should do and the questions to ask when reviewing it. Use our model policy to see what good looks like.

Last reviewed on 28 February 2024See updates
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Contents
  1. Key facts 
  2. What this policy needs to do
  3. 4 key questions to challenge the policy
  4. Take a look at a model policy
  5. See examples from schools 

Key facts 

  • This policy is statutory for all school types
  • You can delegate the approval of this policy to an individual, committee or the headteacher
  • It’s recommended that you review it annually
  • The headteacher and senior leadership team (SLT) will write and be responsible for implementing this policy

What this policy needs to do

Your policy should aim to act as a failsafe to protect pupils and teaching staff from disruption, and allow learning to take place in a safe, calm and supportive environment. 

Your policy must be in line with the Department for Education's (DfE's) statutory guidance on suspensions and permanent exclusions (the latest update to which came into force on 1 September 2023). The things you will want your policy to cover include:

  • Roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders – for example, the headteacher and their responsibilities to inform parents and carers, the governing board and the local authority (LA) about suspensions and permanent exclusions
  • How your headteacher will decide whether or not to exclude a pupil – the information they'll take into account, such as whether the pupil has special educational needs (SEN)
  • The duties of the governing board around considering the suspension or exclusion of pupils – how this process works and what the timelines are
  • That parents/carers have the right to request an independent review of the decision of the governing board not to reinstate a permanently excluded pupil – how this process works and what the timelines are

Please note: 'fixed-term exclusions' are now referred to as suspensions.

4 key questions to challenge the policy

Be critical and challenging when reviewing the policy, and don't be afraid to ask your headteacher for their rationale for any changes they have made.

1. What's changed in this most recent update, and why?

Ask about:

  • Any updates to key statutes and guidance, and how they're reflected in the current policy
  • Any new best practice school leaders have learned through their professional development activities and how they're reflected in the current policy
  • Any insight that has been gleaned from regular monitoring and analysis of data from suspensions, exclusions and movements off-site
  • Any lessons learned from serious incidents that occurred since the last review and:
    • How effective the former policy was at addressing them
    • What's changed in the current policy to improve things
Latest suspensions and exclusions guidance: what's changed?


The updated guidance for September 2023 includes:

  • Information on holding meetings remotely
    • Parents/carers can request that meetings are held remotely and the headteacher will advise them of this right at the time of the suspension/exclusion
    • Social workers and virtual school heads (VSHs) can join remotely
    • Meetings can be remote in extraordinary or unforeseen circumstances
    • Remote meetings should meet certain conditions to make sure all participants can see, hear and communicate effectively
  • Tightened rules on cancelling suspensions/exclusions
    • The headteachers must notify those involved without delay when cancelling a suspension/exclusion
    • Any days out of school before it is cancelled count as a suspension
    • If a suspension/exclusion is cancelled, governing boards don't need to meet to consider representations
  • Clarity on what happens when a pupil is excluded for 15.5 days
    • This previously fell in between the thresholds of '5 to 15' and 'over 16'. The guidance now says 'over 5 but less than 16', to include this scenario

Get a full summary of the updates to the exclusions guidance.

2. Is this policy being properly implemented? How do you know?

Your headteacher should be able to reassure you of this, based on the process your school followed with past suspensions and permanent exclusions. 

For example:

  • Your headteacher should be following the policy when deciding whether or not to suspend or permanently exclude a pupil. They might present some of this data to you or you could ask them if you want more evidence that the right procedures were followed
  • As the board, you are involved in considering the reinstatement of an excluded pupil – did these meetings happen as per your policy?

Ask:

  • Can you demonstrate that the policy is being implemented in a way that is consistent and fair?
  • How do you make sure you're taking the views of the pupil into account before making a decision?
  • Have you updated your procedures since the new guidance came into effect?

3. Does the policy make reference to off-rolling and show our commitment to preventing it?

Off-rolling is unlawful. It's where a school makes the following decisions primarily in the interests of the school and not the pupil:

  • Removes a pupil from the school roll without a formal, permanent exclusion, or
  • Encourages a parent/carer to remove their child from the school roll, or
  • Encourages a sixth-form student not to continue with their course of study, or
  • Retains a pupil on the school roll but does not allow them to attend school normally, without a formal permanent exclusion or suspension

Since 2019, Ofsted's School Inspection Handbook has included a sharper focus on the practice of off-rolling. In schools where inspectors find evidence of off-rolling, "the leadership and management of the school are likely to be judged to be inadequate".

See paragraphs 412 and 413 of the inspection handbook.

Ask your headteacher to show evidence of how this is being addressed in the policy and how it will help your school prevent off-rolling from happening. Find out more about how to identify and prevent off-rolling.

4. How does this policy consider your school's duties to care for vulnerable pupils?

In a maintained school, the governing board or the LA is the 'responsible body' for the Equality Act 2010. It's liable for any actions taken by individuals acting on its behalf, as well as those taken by individual employees of the school. 

It's important you make sure your senior leaders are considering their Public Sector Equality Duty under the Equality Act 2010. Ask how they have considered the impact of the policy on different groups of pupils, with a particular focus on the protected characteristics.

Your school also has duties to vulnerable pupils, such as those with SEND, pupils who are looked-after children (LAC), and pupils with social workers. Ask your headteacher how this policy is taking these vulnerabilities into account.

Your leaders should, at least termly, show you the school's data on suspensions, permanent exclusions and off-site direction and you should be analysing it to see the impact of the policy on different groups. Monitor to see if any groups of pupils who are vulnerable, or those who have protected characteristics, are being suspended or permanently excluded at a higher rate than others. 

Further questions

We also have guidance on general questions you could ask when reviewing any policy.

Take a look at a model policy

28 February 2024: After receiving feedback and clarification from our legal partners, we've updated this policy so it more accurately reflects the guidance around the reasons to suspend a pupil. 

If your school was using the old version of our policy, we recommend they update it in line with our updated advice on page 5 of the policy, under 'Deciding whether to suspend or exclude', in order to best meet their statutory requirements.

Our model policy is up to date with the latest guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) on suspensions and permanent exclusions, which came into force on 1 September 2023. 

This model document is not meant as a guide for writing it, since that's your SLT's job, but you can use it to give you a sense of what a good policy looks like. 

It's been approved by Forbes Solicitors, and has been designed for your senior leaders to adapt to suit your school’s context. 

Model policy: suspension and permanent exclusion

For more policy support from The Key, see the Policy Bank.

See examples from schools 

Please note that all of these schools may not have updated their policies in line with the DfE's updated suspensions and exclusions guidance for 2023, yet.

Primary schools

Benjamin Adlard Primary School, an academy in Lincolnshire, follows the exclusions policy set by Anthem Schools Trust. The policy includes:

  • Factors the headteacher will take into account when considering an exclusion or suspension
  • The approach the school takes when dealing with behaviour linked to a protected characteristic
  • Actions to be taken following any exclusion

Charles Dickens Primary School, an academy in Southwark, uses a suspensions and exclusions policy set by The Charter Schools Educational Trust. The policy includes sections on:

  • The use of CCTV, witness evidence and pupil views
  • Off-site and managed moves
  • Complaints

Secondary school

Salford City Academy, in Salford, publishes its exclusion policy, which explains:

  • The school's principles around suspension and exclusion
  • Types of behaviour that might lead to a permanent exclusion
  • Model letters notifying parents or carers of a suspension or exclusion

Special school

Hexham Priory School, a special academy in Northumberland, publishes its trust’s exclusion policy on its website. It sets out:

  • The pre-conditions required for excluding a pupil
  • Circumstances where pre-conditions would not be met
  • Categories of need for pupils at risk of exclusion

Pupil referral unit

Shaftesbury High School in Lancashire has an exclusion and suspension policy that sets out:

  • How reintegration meetings will be used to support pupils returning from suspensions
  • That permanent exclusion is used as a last resort
  • Details on appeal procedures

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