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).
While permanent exclusions and suspensions were possible throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions will have had an impact on the numbers presented and caution should be taken when comparing across years and terms.
Permanent exclusions have increased in comparison to the previous year
There were 2,200 permanent exclusions in spring term 2021/22, a rate of 0.03, equivalent to 3 permanent exclusions for every 10,000 pupils.
This is an increase compared to 2,100 in the autumn term 2021/22, but is lower than pre-pandemic levels, in spring term 2018/19 there were 2,800 permanent exclusions. While permanent exclusions and suspensions were possible throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the restrictions in place over this period will have had varying impacts on the number of permanent exclusions in each term and caution should be taken when comparing across years. The table below shows this impact, in particular, the 2019/20 summer term and also the 2020/21 spring term where there were large decreases in the number of permanent exclusions.
Data shows that prior to the increase seen from autumn to spring term 2021/22, permanent exclusions were typically higher in autumn term each year than the subsequent spring and summer terms.
The rate of permanent exclusions varies by school type
The number and rate of permanent exclusions is highest in secondary, making up 87% of permanent exclusions in spring 2021/22, with a rate of 0.05 or 5 permanent exclusions in every 10,000 pupils. While the number of permanent exclusions is low in special schools, the rate of permanent exclusions (0.02) is higher than in primary.
The number of permanent exclusions has increased across all school types from the previous term
Compared to the autumn term 2021/22, permanent exclusions
- increased for secondary pupils (+2%)
- increased for primary pupils (+12%)
- increased for special school pupils (+21%)
Permanent exclusions were lower than the last pre-pandemic spring term
Compared to the last pre-pandemic spring term, in 2018/19, permanent exclusions
- decreased for secondary pupils (-18%)
- decreased for primary pupils (-39%)
- increased for special school pupils (+4%)
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 underlying data refer to a total of 2,900 reasons given for exclusion in spring 2021/22, this relates to the reasons given for the 2,200 permanent exclusions that occurred overall.
The most common reason recorded for permanent exclusions was persistent disruptive behaviour. There were 1,030 permanent exclusions where this reason was recorded, 35% of all permanent exclusions. This was followed by physical assault against a pupil, with 510 (18%) permanent exclusions including this reason, and physical assault against an adult, with 340 (12%) permanent exclusions including this reason.