School discipline

School discipline

School behaviour policy

Every school has a behaviour policy, which lists the rules of conduct for pupils before and after school as well as during the school day.

The policy should also say what the school does to prevent bullying.

You can ask the school for a copy of the policy document or find it on their website.



Schools can punish pupils if they behave badly.

Examples of punishments (sometimes called ‘sanctions’) include:

  • a telling-off
  • setting written tasks
  • a letter home
  • removal from a class or group
  • taking away something inappropriate for school, eg mobile phone or tablet
  • detention
  • fixed or permanent exclusions



Detention can be during school hours or after school. Schools don’t have to tell you why a detention has been given or give you notice of after-school detentions.


Seclusion or isolation rooms

Schools should ensure that pupils are kept in seclusion or isolation no longer than is necessary and that their time there is used as constructively as possible.


Physical contact

School staff can use reasonable force to control and restrain pupils. This could include leading a pupil by the arm into a classroom.

All members of school staff can do this including people temporarily put in charge of pupils, such as unpaid volunteers or parents accompanying pupils on a school organised visit.


Directing pupils off-site for education

Schools can direct your child off-site for education to improve their behaviour.

They don’t need your permission, but they must tell you why it is happening, when, where it will be, and how it will be reviewed. They must also involve you in reviews of the placement that look at whether it is achieving its objectives.

Your child should continue to receive a good education on placement that is equivalent to what they would have received by staying in school.

If you’re not happy with your child’s off-site education, you can ask that the governing body review the placement. You need to put your request in writing.

The governing body must arrange a review as soon as reasonably possible, unless there has already been a review in the previous 10 weeks.


Managed Moves

Managed moves are an alternative to exclusion and enable your child to move to another school on a trial basis. Your child’s school may suggest this if they feel your child will benefit from a fresh start somewhere new.

Managed moves can only happen with your agreement and if another school agrees to take your child on trial.  Your child will return to their original school if the placement fails.


Being sent home

Children can’t be sent home to ‘cool off’ unless the incident is officially recorded as an exclusion. These ‘informal’ exclusions are unlawful, even if you agree to it and collect your child.

If you believe your child has been unlawfully excluded, ask for a copy of the school complaints procedure.


Reduced or part-time timetables

Schools can’t reduce your child’s timetable and offer them fewer hours of education than other children in their class.

A part-time timetable may be suggested as a temporary measure in exceptional circumstances, such as a phased return after a medical procedure, but it can’t be used as a punishment.

It can only happen with your agreement.


Complaining about a punishment

If you disagree with the way your child’s been punished, first talk to the headteacher. If you’re not satisfied, ask for a copy of the school complaints procedure.



Searches without your child’s consent

The school doesn’t need your agreement or your child’s agreement to search your child if they think they have banned items, including:

  • weapons, eg knives
  • alcohol
  • illegal drugs
  • stolen goods
  • tobacco products, eg cigarettes
  • pornographic images (of any kind, eg tabloid topless pictures and ‘lads’ mags’ as well as extreme adult material)
  • fireworks
  • anything that has been, or is likely to be, used to cause injury or commit an offence
  • anything banned in the school rules

These things can be confiscated.

Schools do not have to tell you if alcohol, illegal or harmful substances are found but this is good practice.


Legal requirements of a search

There should normally be 2 members of staff present during the search - the person doing the search and the search witness. Searches should normally be done by someone the same sex as your child.

The search witness must also be the same sex as your child if possible. Your child must not be asked to remove clothes, other than outer clothing like a coat.

If there’s a risk of serious harm to a person if the search is not done immediately, a child may be searched by a person of the opposite sex and without another member of staff present.


Metal detectors

Schools can make pupils go through a metal detector - they don’t have to suspect that your child has a weapon. If your child refuses to go through the metal detector, they can be stopped from coming into school.


Complaining about a search

If you’re unhappy with a search on your child at school, talk to the headteacher. If you’re not satisfied, ask for a copy of the school complaints procedure.