School exclusions

Under the CRC, every child has the right to a good education. A child’s education should be appropriate for their abilities and their needs and should be provided without discrimination.

But school exclusions have been rising for the past decade. Too often we see children excluded from school for reasons beyond their control. 

Children with special educational needs or disabilities (SEN), children from disadvantaged backgrounds and those from certain ethnic backgrounds are much more likely to be excluded than their peers. Exclusions have a huge impact on a young person, from undermining their academic and career prospects to putting their mental and physical health in jeopardy.

Drawing on Just for Kids Law's 13 years of experience in challenging exclusions through our legal and advocacy case work, we’re campaigning for a fairer system.

What are school exclusions?

Exclusion can mean removing a child from a school for a certain number of days. This is called a fixed term exclusion. It can also mean removing a child from the school’s register. This is called a permanent exclusion. Families can formally challenge the decision to exclude a child from school. However, there is evidence that the practice of “informal” exclusions is also widespread. These are exclusions which are not registered or reported. They are never legal. Informal exclusions happen when schools apply pressure to a family to remove a young person from the register, or informing a child that they are not welcome back to the school’s campus without giving them the right of appeal of a formal exclusion.

Find more information on how Just for Kids Law can help you challenge an unfair exclusion.

We campaign to improve the exclusion process, to tackle unnecessary and informal exclusions, and help improve the lives of those who are excluded. We focus on three priority areas.

1. Making the exclusions process fairer and more transparent

The system for challenging school exclusions is flawed - the process is weighted in favour of the school instead of the child. Each week, we hear from children and families who need help to challenge unfair school exclusions. Often children haven’t been told about their rights or given a chance to share their views. Or they are excluded even when the law and the Government’s guidance say they shouldn’t have been.

This imbalance of power is made worse by how complicated the law is around school exclusions. There is no state funding for children and their families to get legal advice. Very few charities working in this area offer free support.

We want to see the system changed to ensure all children are able to access their right to an education. 

In 2019, we worked with JUSTICE who came up with a set of recommendations for how the process for challenging school exclusions could be made fairer.

Read the full report

2. Tackling discrimination in school exclusions

School exclusions don’t affect everyone equally. Black Caribbean children, Gypsy Roma and Traveller Children, children living in poverty, and children with special educational needs are all more likely to be permanently excluded. We are campaigning for the Government to introduce more effective ways to reduce discrimination in school exclusions. We want to ensure every child has an equal opportunity to access their right to education.

In 2020, we worked with 4in10 London Child Poverty Network to produce research into the links between race, poverty and school exclusions in London.

Read the full report

3. Keeping children safe from exploitation

Children who are victims of exploitation and county lines gangs, are often forced into behaviour which leads to them being excluded from school. This pushes them into the hands of the people exploiting them. Schools need support to better spot the signs of exploitation. And children need the right protections so that they’re not excluded from school because of behaviour that they’ve been forced into.

In 2021, we published a report setting out how the Department for Education can create better protections for children who are victims of exploitation.

Read the full report

Working with children and young people to campaign for change

As part of Just for Kids Law, we work alongside a group of young activists who each have their own experience of school exclusions. We support them to come together, to make themselves heard with people in power, and take action to create change.

If you are aged 14-24, live in London, have your own experience of school exclusion and would like to join the campaign then please fill out this quick form and send it to Michaela at michaelarafferty@justforkidslaw.org

Get in touch

To find out more about our policy, campaigning and research work on school exclusions, get in touch with Ayomide Sotubo at ayomidesotubo@justforkidslaw.org

To find out about work supporting children and young people to campaign on exclusions, get in touch with Michaela Rafferty at michaelarafferty@justforkidslaw.org.

If you want information about challenging an unfair exclusion, see our School Exclusion Hub or find out more about the support Just for Kids Law's legal team can offer.