Informal or Unofficial Exclusions 

Sometimes schools use different reasons for removing a child from school. These are sometimes referred to as “informal exclusions” and may include:

  • sending a child home early
  • suggesting a “cooling-off period”
  • saying the child cannot cope with a full day at school.

These are unlawful exclusions and should not be happening.

If the school has not followed the correct procedures, or if they put your child continually on a reduced timetable or constantly ask you to collect your child, it could be a sign they have unmet needs.  You can ask for the proper procedures to be followed. You should ask to meet with the school to:

  • discuss other strategies that could be tried to support your child
  • the possibility of assessing your child to see if they have ALN
  • ask for support from a behaviour support team at the local authority

The statutory guidance says that  ‘informal’ or ‘unofficial’ exclusions, such as sending pupils home ‘to cool off’, are unlawful, regardless of whether they occur with the agreement of parents or carers.

The decision to exclude a pupil must be lawful, reasonable and fair.

Informal or unlawful exclusions denies the child and parents their statutory rights to education and the entitlement to the appeal process.

If a headteacher is satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that a learner has committed a disciplinary offence and needs to be removed from the school site, formal exclusion is the only legal method of removal.

Learners being sent home for either short periods of time, or for longer indefinite periods can sometimes result in the learner not returning to school at all or continue the behaviours to be sent home.

If a learner is sent home, even for short periods of time, this must be formally recorded as an exclusion.

Part time timetables

The Law says that, as a rule, schools cannot place children of compulsory school age on a part-time timetable, except  in exceptional circumstances to meet a pupil’s individual needs. 

A part-time timetable must not be treated as a long-term solution, should be treated as part of a reintegration package, and should be time-limited.


Voluntary withdrawals

Influencing or encouraging parents/carers to ’voluntarily‘ withdraw their child from school as a way of dealing with difficult or challenging behaviour is not an appropriate response.

Voluntary’ withdrawals deny the learner and the parent/carer the safeguards of access to the exclusion and appeals procedures to which they are entitled


Lunch Time exclusions     

Sometimes in discussion and agreement with the parent/carer, schools arrange for a child to go home for lunch.

A school can exclude for the duration of the lunchtime, placing the legal responsibility for the learner back with the parent/carer.

However this should be a short-term measure only, with regular review of whether it continues to be an appropriate approach.

Lunchtime exclusion for an indefinite period is illegal.

Arrangements should be made for children who receive free school meals, which may mean, the school providing a packed lunch that particular day.

Lunchtime exclusion must be treated as equivalent to one quarter of a school day.

If these quarter days add up to more than five school days in a school term, including when they are added to other fixed-term exclusions, this will then entitle the child or parent/carer to make representations to the governing body.

Where a learner is kept in the school during lunchtime, but away from other learners, this will not count as a formal exclusion but as an ‘internal exclusion’ .

 Arrangements should be made for learners who are entitled to free school meals. This may mean providing a packed lunch.