The disciplinary powers that schools currently have, including suspension and permanent exclusion, remained in place throughout the COVID-19 outbreak. The statutory guidance on the suspension and permanent exclusion of pupils from local-authority-maintained schools, academies and pupil referral units is clear all decision must be lawful, rational, reasonable, fair and proportionate. Permanent exclusion should only be used as a last resort.
Permanent exclusion rate definition
A permanent exclusion refers to a pupil who is excluded and who will not come back to that school (unless the exclusion is overturned). This data only includes permanent exclusions which have been upheld by the governing body or Independent Review Panel (IRP), and not those which are still ongoing. The permanent exclusion rate is calculated as the number of permanent exclusions divided by the number of pupils (x100).
As with 2019/20, while permanent exclusions and suspensions 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 permanent exclusions has decreased
The number of permanent exclusions has decreased from 5,100 in 2019/20 to 3,900 in in 2020/21. In the last full academic year before the pandemic, 2018/19, there were 7,900 permanent exclusions. These reductions are seen across all school types. The number of permanent exclusions had previously been stable from 2016/17 to 2018/19, prior to the pandemic
The overall rate decreased to 0.05 from 0.06, this is the equivalent of 5 in every 10,000 pupils. This rate was 0.10 in 2018/19.
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.
Across all schools, permanent exclusions were highest in the Autumn term in 2020/21, when there were 1,700 permanent exclusions. This is a decrease from 3,200 in Autumn term 2019/20. There were 1,700 permanent exclusions in Summer term 2020/21.
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 exclusions decreased heavily.
The most common reason recorded for permanent exclusions 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 5,100 reasons given for exclusion, this relates to the reasons given for the 3,900 permanent exclusions that occurred overall.
The most common reason recorded for permanent exclusions was persistent disruptive behaviour. There were 1,500 permanent exclusions where this reason was recorded, 39% of all permanent exclusions. This was followed by physical assault against a pupil, with 900 permanent exclusions including this reason and physical assault against an adult, with 600 permanent exclusions including this reason