Spring term 2021/22

Suspensions and permanent exclusions in England

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See all updates (1) for Spring term 2021/22
  1. Correction to local authority map title, updating from autumn 2021/22 to spring 2021/22

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Introduction

This publication presents statistics on suspensions and permanent exclusions across state-funded schools.

The publication includes data on:

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

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

The latest release provides data from the spring term 2021/22. Prior to 2021/22, data was published on an annual basis covering the whole academic year. This data is still available here and the latest full academic year of data corresponds to the 2020/21 academic year.

The publication will next be updated with a full year release covering the whole of the 2021/22 academic year in July 2023, similar to previous years.


Headline facts and figures - 2021/22

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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).

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.

Suspensions

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).

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.

The number of suspensions has increased

There were 200,800 suspensions in spring term 2021/22, an increase from 183,800 suspensions in autumn term 2021/22. In spring term 2018/19, prior to the pandemic, there were 153,500 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. The table below shows the impact of national restrictions and school closures, in particular the 2019/20 summer term and also the 2020/21 spring term where the number of suspensions decreased heavily. 

Prior to the pandemic, the number and rate of suspensions had been increasing gradually, primarily driven by increases in secondary schools.

The increase from the previous term is driven by increases in secondary schools

Compared to the autumn term 2021/22, suspensions

  • increased for secondary pupils (+11%)
  • increased for primary pupils (+1%)
  • decreased for special school pupils (-13%)

When compared to the last pre-pandemic spring term, in 2018/19, suspensions have increased by 31%, driven by a 38% increase in suspensions in secondary schools, while suspensions in primary (1% decrease) and special schools (5% decrease) both decreased.

Most suspensions are for a single day

47% of suspensions in the spring term were for one day or less, and 99% of suspensions were for one week or less.

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 234,300 reasons given for suspension in spring 2021/22, this relates to the reasons given for the 200,800 suspensions that occurred overall.

The most common reason recorded for suspension was persistent disruptive behaviour, as with permanent exclusions. There were 100,500 suspensions where this reason was recorded, 43% of all suspensions. This was followed by verbal abuse or threatening behaviour against an adult, with 39,000 (17%) suspensions including this reason.

Pupil characteristics

Suspensions and permanent exclusions  rates vary by pupil characteristics

The table below shows these rates broken down by free school meal eligibility (FSM), gender, special educational need provision (SEN) and year group.

Gender - Male pupils have a higher permanent exclusion rate than female pupils, with permanent exclusion rates of 0.04 and 0.01 respectively, while the suspension rate for male pupils (3.07) is almost double that for female pupils (1.71).

FSM - The suspension rate for FSM eligible pupils (5.54) is more than 3 times that for non FSM eligible pupils (1.49). The permanent exclusion rate for FSM eligible pupils is 0.07, compared to 0.01 without. 

SEN - The highest rate of suspensions is among those pupils with SEN without an education, health and care (EHC) plan at 6.31 (SEN support), followed by those with an EHC plan at 5.91. This compares to 1.66 for pupils with no SEN. The highest rate of permanent exclusions is among those pupils who have SEN but no EHC plan at 0.08. 

Year group - Both suspension and permanent exclusions rates tend to increase as age and year group increase with the highest rate for each in Year 10, before a small drop in Year 11 again for both.

Permanent exclusion and suspension rates also vary by ethnicity

Gypsy/Roma pupils have the highest suspension rate at 8.93, a reduction from 9.17 in autumn 2021/22. Pupils from the Traveller of Irish Heritage ethnic group have the highest rate of permanent exclusions at 0.12.

Pupils in the Indian and Chinese ethnic groups had the lowest rates of permanent exclusions and suspensions.

Regional variation

Both suspension and permanent exclusion rates vary across regions and local authorities.

The highest permanent exclusion rates are in the North East at 0.05 and the highest suspension rates are in the North East at 4.02 and Yorkshire and The Humber at 3.55.  The lowest permanent exclusion rates are in the South East and Inner London at 0.01 and the lowest suspension rate is in Outer London at 1.44.

The map below shows the suspension and permanent exclusion rates for each local authority in spring term 2021/22

Further data

The headline figures in this publication cover the Spring term 2021/22 and comparisons to previous terms are presented. The next publication in the series will add data for Summer 2021/22 and present data for the full academic year 2021/22.

The latest full academic year for which data is available is 2020/21. This data is available at https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/permanent-and-fixed-period-exclusions-in-england/2020-21, or via the past releases drop down in the top right toolbar of this publication. 

The full academic year release also includes additional data on exclusion reviews, collected annually.

Further data is available in the data catalogue, or you can create your own tables using the table tool including

  • Permanent exclusions and suspensions by pupil characteristics
  • Permanent exclusions and suspensions in pupil referral units (PRUs)
  • Suspensions - Number of days missed
  • Suspensions - Duration of suspensions
  • Suspensions - Average days missed
  • Suspensions - Number of suspensions

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Methodology

Find out how and why we collect, process and publish these statistics.

National statistics

These accredited official statistics have been independently reviewed by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR). They comply with the standards of trustworthiness, quality and value in the Code of Practice for Statistics. Accredited official statistics are called National Statistics in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007.

Accreditation signifies their compliance with the authority's Code of Practice for Statistics which broadly means these statistics are:

  • managed impartially and objectively in the public interest
  • meet identified user needs
  • produced according to sound methods
  • well explained and readily accessible

Our statistical practice is regulated by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR).

OSR sets the standards of trustworthiness, quality and value in the Code of Practice for Statistics that all producers of official statistics should adhere to.

You are welcome to contact us directly with any comments about how we meet these standards. Alternatively, you can contact OSR by emailing regulation@statistics.gov.uk or via the OSR website.

Contact us

If you have a specific enquiry about Suspensions and permanent exclusions in England statistics and data:

Attendance and exclusions statistics team

Email: schools.statistics@education.gov.uk
Contact name: Attendance and exclusions statistics team

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