Academic year 2019/20

Suspensions and permanent exclusions in England

View latest data: Spring term 2022/23This is not the latest data
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See all updates (2) for Academic year 2019/20
  1. Correction to permanent exclusion rate for Gypsy Roma ethnic group 2019/20 from 0.24 to 0.23. This affects the commentary text only.

  2. Correction to 'Permanent exclusions and suspensions - by characteristic' file. Data for 4 schools was missing from this file for 2019/20 only. This affects Dorset and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole local authorities, South West regional figure and National totals in this file only.

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This publication presents statistics on permanent exclusions and suspensions within the 2019/20 academic year across state-funded schools.

The publication includes data on:

  • reasons schools report for excluding and suspending pupils
  • permanent exclusions and suspensions by pupil characteristics
  • permanent exclusion independent review panels

The data has been collected in the school census. Data for earlier years is also included.

Covering the 2019/20 academic year, this year's data includes the start of the pandemic when, from 23 March, school sites were closed for all but those children of critical workers and vulnerable children, with others being educated remotely. Permanent exclusions and suspensions were possible throughout the full academic year but comparisons to previous years should be treated with caution.

Headline facts and figures - 2019/20

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Permanent exclusions

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)

The number of permanent exclusions has decreased in 2019/20 from 7,900 to 5,100. This is driven by the effect of the national lockdown that started in the Spring term, as indicated by the termly data below. 

The overall rate for permanent exclusions is 0.06 in 2019/20, down from 0.10. This is the equivalent of 6 in every 10,000 pupils. This reduction is also reflected across school types.

Looking across terms, there were 3,200 permanent exclusions in Autumn term 2019/20. This is a 5% increase on the same period in 2018/19 (from 3,000). Across school types, permanent exclusions

  • increased by 20% in primary schools (77 permanent exclusions)
  • increased by 3% in secondary schools (77 permanent exclusions)
  • were stable in special schools

The first national lockdown occurred on 23 March 2020, during the 2019/20 Spring term. The number of permanent exclusions in this term is down from 2,700 in 2018/19 to 1,850.

There were only 40 permanent exclusions in the 2019/2020 Summer term. Following the lockdown, schools were only open to pupils of key workers and vulnerable children and all other children were learning remotely.

The most common reason for permanent exclusion was persistent disruptive behaviour

The proportion of permanent exclusions due to each reason have remained broadly similar despite decreasing numbers.

Just over a third (34%) of all permanent exclusions were for persistent disruptive behaviour in 2019/20, similar to to 2018/19 (35%). This equates to 1,700 permanent exclusions in 2019/20, down from 2,800 in 2018/19, showing the impact of school closures.

The proportion of drug and alcohol related permanent exclusions increased from 9% in 2018/19 to 10% in 2019/20 and the proportion of permanent exclusions for physical assault against an adult increased from 10 to 12%.


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 exclusion rate is calculated as the total number of suspensions, divided by the total number of pupils (x100).

As expected due to school closures, suspensions are substantially lower than in previous years. There were still over 310,000 suspensions in 2019/20 however, a rate of 3.76. This translates to 376 per 10,000 pupils. Previously suspensions had been increasing in number, largely driven by increases in suspensions in secondary schools and to a lesser extent in primary schools. In 2019/20, decreases were seen across all school types. 

In Autumn term 2019/20, there was an increase of 21,000 suspensions (up 14%) on the previous Autumn from 157,100 to 178,400. Across school types, suspensions

  • increased by 21% in primary schools (5,000 suspensions)
  • increased by 12% in secondary schools (15,600 suspensions)
  • decreased by 13% in special schools (700 suspensions)

There was then a reduction in Spring term 2019/20 compared to the previous Spring and only 1,200 suspensions in the Summer term, less than 1% of the previous Summer. 

The number of suspensions in pupil referral units has also decreased, from 30,800 to 21,700. This is a rate of 141.01, down from 191.09 in 2018/19. Both the rate and number of suspensions were at their highest levels in 2018/19.

Note: Numbers of suspensions and exclusions for all school types include the total number of suspensions and 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.

Persistent disruptive behaviour was also the most common reason for suspensions

Just over a third (34%) of suspensions were for persistent disruptive behaviour, up from 31% in 2018/19.  As a proportion of the total number of suspensions, there was also an increase in verbal abuse or threatening behaviour against an adult (15% to 16%), whilst there was a decrease in ‘other reasons’ (19% to 16%). The proportions in the remaining reasons stayed broadly the same.

Pupils with one or more suspensions

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 rate of pupils with more than one suspension has decreased from 2.44 to 1.87. This represents a reverse of the trend that has been seen in recent years, demonstrating the effect of lockdown on school suspensions. The total number of pupils with more than one suspension has gone from 199,800 in 2018/19 to 154,500 in 2019/20.

Most suspensions are for a short duration

Almost a half of suspensions were for one day and 98% were for five days or less. While there was a reduction in the number of suspensions, these proportions are similar to 2018/19.

Four fifths of pupils with one or more suspension missed a total of a week or less

79% of pupils who had one or more suspensions missed a total of five days or less throughout the year, with 30% missing a single day. 

Regional variation

Exclusion rates vary across local authorities and regions

Rates in every category across every region are down compared to 2018/19.

The region with the highest suspension and permanent exclusion rates is the North East. The suspension rate is 5.83 (583 suspensions per 10,000 pupils), compared to 3.76 nationally. This is a decrease from 8.00 in 2018/19. The permanent exclusion rate in the North East decreased from 0.17 to 0.10 (10 per 10,000 pupils). However, this is still nearly twice the national rate, 0.06 nationally (6 per 10,000).

The lowest rate for suspensions is Outer London with 2.41, a decrease from 3.51 in 2018/19. The lowest permanent exclusion rate is in the South East, at 0.03, a decrease from 0.04 from last year. 

The map below show the permanent exclusion and suspension rates for each local authority in 2019/20

Pupil characteristics

Boys continue to have higher permanent exclusion and suspensions rates than girls

Boys continue to have more than three times the number of permanent exclusions, with 3,900 exclusions, at a rate of 0.09, compared to 1,200 for girls (0.02).

The rate of permanent exclusions for boys has decreased from 0.15 in 2018/19 and from 0.05 for girls.

The rate of suspensions has also decreased for boys, from 7.55 to 5.30, and for girls from 3.08 to 2.16. 

Permanent exclusions and suspensions still peak at age 14

The permanent exclusion and suspension rates generally increase with age, and are highest at age 14 (0.22 and 10.84 respectively). This follows the same trend as 2018/19.

Rates are higher among pupils eligible for free school meal (FSM)

The permanent exclusion rate for pupils eligible for FSM is 0.16, compared to 0.04 for those not eligible. In both cases these rates have decreased in the last year. 

The suspension rate is also higher at 9.34 for pupils eligible for FSM, compared to 2.58 for those not eligible.

Rates are higher among pupils with special education needs (SEN)

The permanent exclusion rate for pupils with an education, health and care (EHC) plan is 0.10, and for pupils with SEN with no EHC plan (SEN support) is 0.20, compared to 0.04 for those without SEN.

The suspension rate is also higher: 11.70 for EHC pupils and 10.98 for SEN support pupils, compared to 2.43 for those without SEN.

The highest rates are amongst those with a primary type of need recorded as social, emotional and mental heath, at 0.61 for exclusions and 33.04 for suspensions. This is in line with previous years.

Rates vary by ethnicity 

Gypsy/Roma pupils continue to have the highest rates of permanent exclusions (0.23) and suspensions (15.28). Pupils of mixed White and Black Caribbean ethnicity have the second highest rate of permanent exclusion (0.15). Pupils from Traveller or Irish Heritage have the second highest rate of suspension (10.12).

Exclusion reviews

Parents (and pupils if aged over 18) are able to request an independent review of a permanent exclusion. An independent review panel’s role is to review the decision of the governing body not to reinstate a permanently excluded pupil. The panel must consider the interests and circumstances of the excluded pupil, including the circumstances in which the pupil was excluded and have regard to the interests of other pupils and people working at the school.

The School Discipline (Pupil Exclusions and Reviews) (England) Regulations 2012 were amended to give school governing bodies and local authorities more time to review suspensions and permanent exclusions and to explicitly allow for meetings to be conducted via video- or tele-conference facilities during the COVID-19 outbreak. The full guidance on the changes is available here

The number of independent reviews lodged in 2019/20 was 430, down from 660 in 2018/19. This is driven by the decrease in the number of permanent exclusions in 2019/20. The percentage of reviews lodged that were determined by a panel in 2019/20 was 89%, a reduction from 92% in 2018/19.

55% of exclusions were upheld at the independent review panel, a small decrease from 57% in 2018/19.

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