Every school has a behaviour policy, which lists the rules of conduct for pupils before and after school as well as during the school day. You can ask the school for a copy of the policy document.


  • Schools can punish pupils if they behave badly.
  • Headteachers can exclude your child (also called being ‘expelled’ or ‘suspended’) if they misbehave.

Examples of lesser punishments (sometimes called ‘sanctions’) include:

  • a telling-off
  • a letter home
  • removal from a class or group
  • confiscating something inappropriate for school (e.g. mobile phone or MP3 player)
  • detention

child holding face with one hand in dismay from being spoken to by adult in background

What happens when your child is excluded

Your child’s school will let you know about an exclusion as soon as possible and follow up with a letter including information about how long your child is excluded for and why. Exclusions can start the same day but the school can’t make you collect your child straight away.

There are two kinds of exclusion - fixed period (suspended) and permanent (expelled).

You should also be told how to challenge the exclusion, if you want to. 

Alternative education and exclusion

If a child has been excluded for a fixed period, schools should set and mark work for the first 5 school days. If the exclusion is longer than 5 school days, the school must arrange full-time education from the sixth school day. 

Permanent exclusion means your child is expelled. The local council must arrange full-time education from the sixth school day. The school must tell you about any alternative education they or the local council arrange. It’s your responsibility to make sure your child attends.

Contact the school (for fixed period exclusions) or the local council (for permanent exclusions) if they haven’t arranged anything after 5 days.

You can complain to the Department for Education (DfE) if you’re not happy with their response.

Complaining about a punishment and exclusions

The letter from school about the exclusion will tell you how to challenge the decision. If you disagree with the way your child’s been punished, first talk to the head teacher. If you’re not satisfied, ask for a copy of the complaints procedure.


You can get get free legal advice if your child has been excluded.

You can make a claim to a court or a tribunal if you think your child’s been discriminated against. Contact the Equality Advisory Support Service for help and advice.

For more general complaints (e.g. if you don’t want to challenge the exclusion but you’re not happy with the way the school handled it), follow the normal school complaints process.