Suspension rate definition
Suspensions, previously known as 'fixed period exclusions', refers to when a pupil who is excluded from a school for a set period of time. A suspension can involve a part of the school day and it does not have to be for a continuous period. A pupil may be suspended for one or more periods up to a maximum of 45 school days in a single academic year. This total includes suspensions from previous schools covered by the exclusion legislation.
The suspension rate is calculated as the total number of suspensions, divided by the total number of pupils (x100).
As with 2019/20, while suspensions and permanent exclusions were possible throughout the academic year, these restrictions will have had an impact on the numbers presented and caution should be taken when comparing across years.
The number of suspensions has increased, but remains lower than pre-pandemic
The number of suspensions has increased from 310,700 in 2019/20 to 352,500 in 2020/21. In the last full academic year before the pandemic, 2018/19, there were 438,300 suspensions.
National restrictions affected 2020/21, in particular in the Spring term when attendance was prioritised for key worker and vulnerable children. There were also restrictions in 2019/20 affecting the Spring term and Summer term.
Prior to the pandemic, the number and rate of suspensions had been increasing gradually, primarily driven by increases in secondary schools.
The increase in suspensions in 2020/21 is driven by an increase in suspensions in secondary pupils
Across school types, suspensions
- increased for secondary pupils by 17%, from 253,300 to 296,200
- decreased for primary pupils by 2%, from 47,300 to 46,200
- decreased for special school pupils by 1%, from 10,200 to 10,000
The chart also shows the impact of national restrictions and school closures in the 2019/20 Summer term and also the 2020/21 Spring term where the number of suspensions decreased heavily.
Across all schools, suspensions were highest in the Autumn term in 2020/21, when there were just under 160,000 suspensions, however the number of suspensions was lower than the previous Autumn term when there were nearly 180,000 suspensions. This pattern is seen across each school type.
Suspensions in pupil referral units
The number of suspensions in pupil referral units has decreased, from 30,800 in 2018/19 to 21,700 in 2019/20 and 17,800 in 2020/21. This suspension rate in 2020/21 was 139.2, equivalent to 13,920 suspensions in the year for every 10,000 pupils.
Note: Numbers of suspensions and permanent exclusions for all school types include the total number of suspensions and permanent exclusions across the school year. Rates are calculated as a proportion of the headcount at January in that year. This may lead to higher rates for pupil referral units as pupils may have higher mobility between different settings.
The most common reason recorded for suspensions was persistent disruptive behaviour
Prior to 2020/21, a single reason could be recorded for each suspension and permanent exclusion. From 2020/21, up to three reasons could be recorded. These reasons were recorded without weighting or prioritisation. As such, the sum of the number of reasons will not match the total number of suspensions or permanent exclusions from 2020/21.
Further, the following new reasons for suspensions and permanent exclusions were added from 2020/21
- Use or threat of use of an offensive weapon or prohibited item
- Abuse against sexual orientation and gender identity
- Abuse relating to disability
- Inappropriate use of social media or online technology
- Wilful and repeated transgression of protective measures in place to protect public health
As multiple reasons could be recorded, the table below and underlaying data refer to a total of 410,500 reasons given for suspension, this relates to the reasons given for the 352,500 suspensions that occurred overall.
The most common reason recorded in 2020/21 was persistent disruptive behaviour. This reason was recorded for 148,400 suspensions, or 42% of suspensions. This is followed by physical assault against a pupil and verbal abuse or threatening behaviour against an adult, both recorded against a fifth of suspensions.
Number of pupils who were suspended
‘Pupils with one or more suspensions’ refer to pupil enrolments that had at least one suspension across the full academic year. Dual registered pupils with suspensions in multiple schools have each of their enrolments considered separately. This allows for schools to be held accountable for suspensions, as the suspensions are attached to enrolments at a particular school, not the individual pupil.
The total number of pupils with a suspension has increased from 154,500, an increase of 18% from 2019/20 to 2020/21. This increase is seen across all school types, with the largest increase in secondary schools. This means that the rate of pupils with a suspension has also increased, to 2.20, or 220 pupils in every 10,000.