Summer term 2021/22

Suspensions and permanent exclusions in England

View latest data: Autumn term 2022/23This is not the latest data
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See all updates (2) for Summer term 2021/22
  1. Correction to geography underlying data file where West and North Northamptonshire were under South East. Further correction to IDACI, FSM6, SEN type underlying data file to remove erroneous negative and missing values.

  2. Amendment to reorder publications in correct date order

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Introduction

This publication presents statistics on suspensions and permanent exclusions within the 2021/22 academic year 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.


Headline facts and figures - 2021/22

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Permanent exclusions

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).

Note on data coverage over the pandemic

While permanent exclusions and suspensions were possible throughout the 2019/20 and 2020/21 academic years, national restrictions will have had an impact on the numbers presented and caution should be taken when comparing across years.

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.

The number of permanent exclusions has increased

The number of permanent exclusions has increased from 3,900 in 2020/21 to 6,500 in in 2021/22. In the last full academic year before the pandemic, 2018/19, there were 7,900 permanent exclusions. The increases 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 increased to 0.08 from 0.05, this is the equivalent of 8 in every 10,000 pupils. This rate was 0.10 in 2018/19.

The large increase from 2020/21 reflects that national restrictions affected both the 2019/20 and 2020/21 academic years, in particular in the Spring term 2020/21 when attendance was prioritised for key worker and vulnerable children and restrictions for all pupils in 2019/20 affecting the Spring term and Summer term.

Across all schools, permanent exclusions were highest in the Summer term in 2021/22, when there were 2,200 permanent exclusions. The number of permanent exclusions were stable across terms, with 2,100 in Autumn and 2,200 in Spring.

The chart below shows the number of permanent exclusions in each term from Autumn term 2018/19, and 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 permanent 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  8,700 reasons given for exclusion in 2021/22, this relates to the reasons given for the 6,500 permanent exclusions that occurred overall.

The most common reason recorded for permanent exclusions was persistent disruptive behaviour. There were 3,050 permanent exclusions where this reason was recorded, 47% of all permanent exclusions. This was followed by physical assault against a pupil, with 1,400 permanent exclusions including this reason (22%) and both verbal abuse or threatening behaviour against an adult and physical assault against an adult, with 1,000 permanent exclusions including these reasons (16%).

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).

Note on data coverage over the pandemic

While permanent exclusions and suspensions were possible throughout the 2019/20 and 2020/21 academic years, national 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 352,500 in 2020/21 to 578,300 in 2021/22. In the last full academic year before the pandemic, 2018/19, there were 438,300 suspensions.

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 2021/22 is driven by an increase in suspensions across all school types.

Across school types, suspensions

  • increased for secondary pupils by 68%, from 296,200 to 498,100
  • increased for primary pupils by 43%, from 46,200 to 66,200
  • increased for special school pupils by 39%, from 10,000 to 14,000

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 182,500 to 252,500, an increase of 38% from 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 3.02, or 302 pupils in every 10,000.

Suspensions were highest in 2021/22 in the spring term, with 201,100 suspensions. This was driven by a peak in secondary schools in the spring term.

Across the academic year, the number of suspensions increased steadily in primary schools, while the number of suspensions decreased across each term in special schools. 

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 676,700 reasons given for suspension, this relates to the reasons given for the 578,200 suspensions that occurred overall.

As with previous years, the most common reason recorded in 2021/22 was persistent disruptive behaviour. This reason was recorded for 289,600 suspensions, or 50% of suspensions. This is followed by verbal abuse or threatening behaviour against an adult (19% of suspensions) and physical assault against a pupil (18% of suspensions).

Regional data

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

In line with the national trend, the rate of suspensions and permanent exclusions has gone up across all regions. 

Both the highest suspension and permanent exclusions rates are in the North East, at 10.69 and 0.13.  The lowest suspension rate is in Outer London at 4.14 and the lowest permanent exclusion rate is in Inner London at 0.03.

The map below shows the same rates for suspensions and permanent exclusions for each local authority

Pupil referral units

Suspensions in pupil referral units

The number of suspensions in pupil referral units has increased to 30,100 in 2021/22. This follows a period of decreases through the pandemic from 30,800 in 2018/19 to 21,700 in 2019/20 and 17,800 in 2020/21. The suspension rate in 2021/22 was 257.87, equivalent to 25,787 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.

Pupil characteristics

Suspensions and permanent exclusions peak at age 14

The suspension and permanent exclusion rates generally increase with age, and are highest at age 13 for suspensions (19.79) and age 14 for permanent exclusions (0.28). This follows similar trends seen in recent years.

Boys continue to have higher suspension and permanent exclusions rates than girls

Boys have almost double the rate of suspensions, 8.96 compared to 4.78. and nearly three times the number of permanent exclusions, 0.11 compared to 0.04 for girls. 

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

The suspension rate is higher at 16.02 for pupils eligible for FSM, compared to 4.26 for those not eligible.

The permanent exclusion rate for pupils eligible for FSM is 0.20, around five times higher than for those not eligible, at 0.04.

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

The suspension rate for pupils with an education, health and care (EHC) plan is 17.63, and for pupils with SEN with no EHC plan (SEN support) is 18.59, compared to 4.69 for those without SEN.

The permanent exclusion rate for pupils with an EHC plan is 0.13, and for pupils with SEN support is 0.25, compared to 0.05 for those without SEN.

Rates vary by ethnicity 

Gypsy/Roma pupils continue to have the highest rates of suspensions (25.63) and permanent exclusions (0.31). Traveller of Irish Heritage pupils have the second highest rate of suspensions (19.34) and permanent exclusions (0.31).

Pupils in the Chinese ethnic group have the lowest rates of suspensions and permanent exclusions in 2021/22 

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 number of independent reviews lodged in 2021/22 was 480, an increase from 330 in 2020/21. This is lower than the levels seen prior to the pandemic.

The percentage of reviews lodged that were determined by a panel in 2021/22 was 94%, a small decrease from 95% in 2020/21, but still  higher than the final year before the pandemic (92% in 2018/19). 

58% of exclusions were upheld at the independent review panel, a small decrease from 59% in 2020/21.

Note on data coverage over the pandemic

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. In response to coronavirus (COVID-19), some temporary changes were made which applied to school suspension and permanent exclusion between 1 June and 24 September 2020 (inclusive of those dates) and 25 September up until 24 March 2022.

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Methodology

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

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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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