Last reviewed on 23 November 2021
School types: All · School phases: All
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Be clear on what your exclusion policy should do and the questions to ask when reviewing it. Use our model policy to see what good looks like.

Please note: the Department for Education (DfE) has updated its guidance on suspensions and exclusions.

These updates do not come into force until 1 September 2022 - please continue to refer to existing regulations in the meantime.

We'll be updating this article in due course.

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 will write and be responsible for the implementation of this policy

What this policy needs to do

Your policy must be in line with the Department for Education's (DfE) statutory guidance on exclusion. 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, the governing board and the local authority about 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
  • That the governing board must consider the reinstatement of excluded pupils – how this process works and what the timelines are
  • That parents have the right to request an independent review of the decision of the governing board not to reinstate a pupil – how this process works and what the timelines are

Please note: fixed-term exclusions are now referred to as suspensions in the census return. We're expecting the DfE to update the statutory guidance document on exclusions and include this change. In the meantime, we still use the term 'exclusion' in this article and our model policy to refer to both a permanent exclusion and a suspension (fixed-term exclusion). We'll reflect the updated guidance when it's published.

3 key questions to challenge the policy

1. Is our policy up to date with the latest statutory guidance?

As explained above, your policy must be in line with the DfE's statutory guidance on exclusion. You'll want your headteacher to be able to show evidence of this.

It's also possible that when you next review your exclusion policy the guidance will have been updated. This is because we have been expecting an update since last summer – see our article for more information.

So you’ll want to make sure your policy reflects the new 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 exclusions.

For example:

  • Your headteacher should be following the policy when deciding whether or not to 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?

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

Off-rolling is the practice of removing a pupil from the school roll without a formal, permanent exclusion or by encouraging a parent to remove their child from the school roll, where doing this is primarily in the interests of the school rather than in the best interests of the child. It’s unlawful. 

Ofsted’s 2019 school inspection handbook includes a harder 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" – read more about off-rolling.

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. Read our article to find out more about how to identify and prevent off-rolling.

Further questions

We also have guidance on general questions you should ask when reviewing all policies.

Model policy

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

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

Please note: the DfE has extended its provisions for conducting remote meetings to 24 March 2022. You can read more about that in the grey box at the top of this article. Our model policy doesn't make reference to these provisional changes. 

For more policy support from The Key, see the policy bank.

Examples from schools 

Christleton Primary School in Cheshire West and Chester has an exclusion policy on its website.

Philip Morant School and College in Essex has an exclusion policy on its website

The Bridge School – a special school in Suffolk – has a school exclusion policy on its website