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Dealing with Detention and Exclusion

Dealing with Detention and Exclusion

Discipline at junior school generally involves little more than being told off or moved to sit elsewhere else. In secondary school it is usually the odd lunchtime detention. But how do you cope with more serious disciplinary actions?

Your child is in trouble at school

Some of us may find ourselves having to cope with more serious disciplinary actions which can prove distressing and confusing particularly if it results in either a fixed term or permanent exclusion.

For many parents in this situation we feel as though it is just our child who is unruly, has been singled out as a troublemaker and that this is a reflection on us as a parent. These negative emotions can mean we don’t handle the situation confidently and assertively. However it is through being confident and assertive that we can effectively help our child to find a positive outcome to what is going on.

Dealing with problems of behaviour at school

It is important to focus on the following points:

  • This is an opportunity to get help and support to tackle an escalating problem which you may long have felt you are no longer able to control.
  • Many children are challenging in different situations. It may be something about their experience at school that is causing problems.
  • By understanding and knowing how school disciplinary procedures work and the rights and responsibilities of you and your child, it is possible to focus on moving forward and achieve a positive outcome.


School Behaviour Policies

Your child’s school should have a set of policies which cover all aspects of their disciplinary procedures including how they will promote positive behaviour, what they expect from pupils, for example, having respect for others, and their code of conduct. Schools have a duty to make parents aware of these policies and to publicise them as openly as possible. Of course, in reality that doesn’t necessarily mean you will remember coming across them, much less have read them – we all lead busy lives and, let’s be honest, policies make pretty dry reading!

However, it is a good idea for any parent to be familiar with them and a must for any parent who is in trouble with the school.

The two most serious sanctions schools will use are detention and exclusion.


Many children will get a few lunchtime detentions which you may or may not get to hear about. The main thing to know is that a child isn’t allowed to go without eating as a result of detention.

If the school imposes an afterschool detention they will endeavour to tell parents well in advance as a matter of courtesy, but it is not required by law.

If you have concerns about making alternative travel arrangements or the safety of your child travelling home later, then it is important that you let the school know as they may reconsider in certain circumstances.

It may be that your child feels that the detention is unfair and that they have been picked on by a particular teacher. This may or may not be true, and only you can judge this for yourself based on what you know of your child. If you feel that what your child is saying is likely to be true then you need to talk to the teacher involved, or their head of year, and argue their case. Be warned: however unfair your child thinks the detention is, the idea of their parent going into school and interfering may be a far worse prospect – just not cool!


There are two types of exclusion – fixed term (this used to be called suspension) and permanent.

The main points to know are: Exclusion is used when a child has got into serious trouble or their presence in school would seriously harm their education and welfare or that of other pupils

  • Only the head teacher or acting head teacher can exclude a child.
  • If the exclusion is for more than one day the school have to set work for your child and mark it.
  • The school should contact you by phone on the day of the exclusion and follow up with a letter clearly stating the reason and length of the exclusion.
  • In the first five days of any exclusion you are required by law to make sure your child is not out in a public place, with or without a parent, during school hours.
  • If the exclusion is for more than five days the school should organise a re-integration meeting with you and your child before he/she returns. If the exclusion is for less than five days it can still be helpful to request such a meeting.

Coping with exclusion

Exclusion is usually the school’s response to bad behaviour that has been getting worse and has not improved by using minor sanctions, so you should have already been made aware by the school that exclusion is a possibility. The school should actively be working on ways to prevent your child’s behaviour getting worse and also be involving you in what they are doing. In this situation, as mentioned above, it is important to get all the information you need to help you to support and work with your child and the school.

There are situations where exclusion has come out of the blue, for example, if your child has physically assaulted someone. However, if this is the case and especially if the behaviour is uncharacteristic, then it may be that the exclusion is unfair. If you think this is the case you have a right to challenge the action taken by the school and there is guidance about how to do this in the ACE guidance.

Useful things to know about exclusion

  • Governors can override a head teacher’s decision to exclude a child.
  • Exclusion without following formal procedures is illegal.

Focus on the positive

Whatever level of disciplinary procedures your child is involved in, the important thing is to focus on positive outcomes for the future. If your child has been excluded this means helping your child to think about going back to school and what they can do to make things different and improve their experience of school.

Every child is different and sometimes a period of exclusion can be an important time to reflect on your child’s welfare and educational needs. Perhaps the school that they are at is not the best place for them and alternatives do exist. If you feel this is the case with your child, talk to the school or ask to speak with an Education Welfare Officer.

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