Spring term 2022/23

Suspensions and permanent exclusions in England

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See all updates (1) for Spring term 2022/23
  1. Correction made to "reasons" data file for 2020/21 and 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

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 (January to April) 2022/23. The publication will next be updated by a full year release covering the whole of the 2022/23 academic year in July 2024, similar to previous years.

Data covering the full 2021/22 academic year is available within the explore data section of this publication, or for a full commentary see the 2021/22 summer term publication.


Headline facts and figures - 2022/23

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  • Data catalogue

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Suspensions

Suspension rate definition

Suspensions, previously known as 'fixed period exclusions', refers to when a pupil 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 suspensions and permanent exclusions 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 and rate of suspensions has increased

There were 263,900 suspensions in spring term 2022/23. This continues the increasing trend in suspensions prior to the pandemic (that is, up to autumn 2019/20) and is an increase of 31% from spring 2021/22. Suspensions are typically higher in autumn term than in spring and summer so spring 2022/23 is a change from that trend, with an increase of 7% from autumn term 2022/23 and the highest number of termly suspensions in the time series.

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. 

The increase from the previous term is driven by secondary schools

Prior to the pandemic, the number and rate of suspensions had been increasing gradually, in the main driven by increases in secondary schools. This has continued after the low rates seen during the pandemic, and the latest term saw another overall increase driven by secondary schools. Compared to the autumn term 2022/23, suspensions:

  • increased for secondary pupils (+9%, from 214,100 to 232,600)
  • decreased for primary pupils (-3%, from 26,800 to 25,900)
  • decreased for special school pupils (-18%, from 6,500 to 5,300)

Most suspensions are for a single day

47% of suspensions in the spring term were for one day, and 99% of suspensions were for five days 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 309,700 reasons given for suspension in spring 2022/23, this relates to the reasons given for the 263,900 suspensions that occurred overall.

The most common reason recorded for suspension was persistent disruptive behaviour, there were 150,300 instances where this reason for suspension was recorded, 57% of all suspensions. This was followed by verbal abuse or threatening behaviour against an adult, with 49,400 suspensions (19%) including this reason.

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). A rate of  0.01 would be equivalent to 1 permanent exclusion for every  10,000 pupils.

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 3,000 permanent exclusions in spring term 2022/23, a rate of 0.04, equivalent to 4 permanent exclusions for every 10,000 pupils. 

This is a decrease compared to 3,100 in the autumn term 2022/23, but an increase on the previous spring term 2021/22 when there were 2,200 permanent exclusions. Data shows that permanent exclusions are typically higher in autumn term each year than the subsequent spring and summer terms, therefore spring term 2022/23 is consistent with that trend. 

The number of permanent exclusions is higher than the last pre-pandemic spring term (2,800 in spring 2018/19). 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 the number of permanent exclusions decreased heavily.

The rate of permanent exclusions varies by school type

The number and rate of permanent exclusions is highest in secondary, making up 85% of permanent exclusions in spring 2022/23, with a rate of 0.07 (7 permanent exclusions in every 10,000 pupils). While the number of permanent exclusions is low in special schools, the rate (0.02) is higher than in primary (0.01).

Permanent exclusions increased in all school types compared to the previous spring term

Compared to the spring term 2021/22, permanent exclusions:

  • increased for secondary pupils (+37%, from 1,900 to 2,600)
  • increased for primary pupils (+64%, from 250 to 420)
  • increased for special school pupils (+17%, from 29 to 34)

The number of permanent exclusions increased in primary from the previous term

Compared to the autumn term 2021/22, permanent exclusions:

  • decreased for secondary pupils (-3%, from 2,700 to 2,600)
  • increased for primary pupils (+10%,from 380 to 420)
  • decreased for special school pupils (-28%, from 47 to 34)

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 4,160 reasons given for exclusion in spring 2022/23, this relates to the reasons given for the 3,040 permanent exclusions that occurred overall.

The most common reason recorded for permanent exclusions was persistent disruptive behaviour, as with suspensions. There were 1,580 instances of this reason for permanent exclusion, 52% of all permanent exclusions. This was followed by physical assault against a pupil, with 660 permanent exclusions (22%) including this reason.

Regional data

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

In line with the national trend, the rates of suspensions have increased across all regions compared to both autumn term 2022/23 and the previous spring term in 2021/22.

The highest suspension and permanent exclusion rates are in the North East, at 5.04 and 0.06.  The lowest suspension rate is in Outer London at 1.60 and the lowest permanent exclusion rate is in Outer London, Inner London and the South East at 0.02.

The map below shows the suspension and permanent exclusion rates for each local authority in spring term 2022/23.

Pupil characteristics

Suspensions and permanent exclusions rates vary by pupil characteristics

The table below shows these rates broken down by sex, free school meal eligibility (FSM), special educational need provision (SEN) and year group. For context, the suspension rate for spring term 2022/23 was 3.13 and the permanent exclusions rate was 0.04. Data for unclassified/unknown sex, FSM status, SEN, year group and ethnicity are not presented in the tables due to very low numbers, which lead to volatile rates.

Sex - The suspension rate for male pupils is higher than for female pupils, with small variation in the gap from term to term. Male pupils also have a higher permanent exclusion rate than female pupils, with permanent exclusion rates of 0.05 and 0.02 respectively.

Free school meals (FSM) - The suspension rate for FSM eligible pupils is 4 times that for non FSM eligible pupils. The permanent exclusion rate for FSM eligible pupils is 0.09, compared to 0.02 non FSM eligible. 

Special educational needs (SEN) - The rate of suspensions among those pupils who have an education, health and care plan (EHC plan) is 6.98, which is lower than for those with SEN without an EHC plan (SEN support) at 8.04. This compares to 2.18 for pupils with no SEN. The rate of permanent exclusions among those pupils who have an education, health and care plan (EHC plan) is 0.07, which, like suspensions, is lower than for those with SEN without an EHC plan (SEN support) at 0.12. This compares to 0.02 for pupils with no SEN.

Year group - The suspensions and permanent exclusions rate tends to increase as age and year group increase, to a point. The highest rate for suspensions was in Year 9 and permanent exclusions in Year 9 and Year 10, before small drops for both in higher year groups.

Suspension and permanent exclusion rates vary by ethnicity

Gypsy/Roma pupils had the highest suspension rate at 11.43 in the spring 2022/23 term, and the second highest permanent exclusion rate at 0.14. Pupils from Traveller of Irish Heritage ethnic group had the highest rate of permanent exclusions at 0.18 and the second highest rate of suspensions. 

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

Further data

The headline figures in this publication cover the spring term 2022/23 and comparisons to previous terms are presented. The next publication in the series will be for the full academic year 2022/23.

The latest full academic year for which data is currently available is 2021/22. This data is available in the publication for summer term 2021/22.

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 alternative provision (including pupil referral units)
  • Suspensions - Number of days missed
  • Suspensions - Duration of suspensions
  • Suspensions - Average days missed
  • Suspensions - Number of suspensions

Help and support

Methodology

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

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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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