What are school exclusions?

Before we talk about school exclusions lets define school exclusions. So, the term ‘exclusion’ was first used in the Education (No 2) Act 1986, which explained different types of exclusion: fixed period and permanent (Berridge, 2001). A fixed period exclusion is when a child is temporarily removed from school for up to a maximum of 45 days in an academic year. If someone is permanently excluded this means that the child cannot attend the school anymore and their name will be removed from the school database (DFE, 2020). 

Clinton case study

When Clinton was 11, he brought a knife into school. Clinton was being bullied by two boys and he brought the knife in for protection, he did not intend to use it. The bullying was so bad Clinton told his dad he wanted to jump off a balcony and kill himself. When Clinton’s school found out about the knife he was permanently excluded and sent to the local pupil referral unit ( a pupil referral unit is where someone is educated after they have been permanently excluded from school).

At the pupil referral unit to fit in, Clinton got involved in a gang. He ended up carrying a knife every day, selling cannabis and tobacco, sleeping in parks and on buses, getting into fights, delivering guns and more. Before Clinton’s permanent exclusion he was not a violent boy, he was vulnerable, naive and afraid. His father said “you can’t put a child in a negative situation every day and expect a positive outcome.” (Cohen 2020). 

Clinton did not want to carry a knife but he felt like he had no choice. Clinton’s story is a perfect example of how all behaviour is a form of communication. Clinton was trying to communicate that he needed help and that he was scared.

School to prison pipeline

Like Clinton, school exclusions can lead many students to a life of crime. Several pieces of research have shown exclusions from school alienate students and can lead to poorer outcomes such as crime (Fabelo et al, 2011). For example Arnull and Eagle (2009) found that:

  • more than one in seven students who were fixed period/or permanently excluded encountered the juvenile justice system
  • almost 50% of students who experienced 11 or more exclusions, were in contact with the justice system

Our school-to-prison pipeline poster helps to visually explain the path that an excluded student may go down.

Did you know?

  • Persistent disruptive behaviour is the most common reason for exclusions (DFE, 2020).
  • Youth who engage in forms of disruptive behaviour earlier in life typically become involved in antisocial behaviour later in life (Petitclere &Tremblay, 2009).
  • Students at risk of exclusion typically face numerous life challenges, such as poverty, family breakdowns, a housing shortage and social emotional and mental health problems (Cole, 2015).


By increasing support and having positive relationships with teachers, friends and feeling valued as an individual , students feel like they belong (Tucker 2013 & Craggs et al. 2017). This is important as by having positive relationships with others leads to a big improvement in behaviour (Obsuth et al., 2017).


Research highlights exclusions from schools can lead to poorer outcomes later on in life. However, this does not have to be case. If the root causes of behaviour were explored more, in some situations exclusions would not have to happen.

 At Say It With Your Chest we help to reduce the number of exclusions through our Switch Ambassador Programme. We find out the why behind the behaviour and then work in partnership with the school to support the young person.


Arnull, E. and Eagle, S (2009) Girls and offending: Patterns, perceptions and interventions. London: London South Bank University. 

Berridge, D. Brodie, I. Pitts, J. Porteous, D and Tarling, R (2001) The independent effects of permanent exclusion from school on the offending careers of young people. London: Home Office.  

Christle, C. Jolivette, K. and Nelson, M (2005) Breaking the school to prison pipeline: Identifying factors for youth delinquency. Exceptionality, 132, 69–88. 

Cohen, D (2020) ‘Gangs, Weed and Crime: Impact of School Exclusion’, Evening Standard, 10 March, p. 20. 

Cole T (2015) Mental health difficulties and children at risk of exclusion from schools in England: A review from an educational perspective of policy, practice and research, 1997 to 2015. Oxford: University of Oxford.  

Craggs H, Kelly C (2017) School belonging: Listening to the voices of secondary school students who have undergone managed moves, School Psychology International, 39 (1): 56- 73. 

Department For Education (2020) Permanent and Fixed Period Exclusions in England: 2018 to 2019. Available at: Permanent and Fixed Period Exclusions in England: 2018 to 2019 (publishing.service.gov.uk)

Duffield C (2020) What is the free school meals scheme and what was Marcus Rashford campaignign for? Available at: What is the free school meals scheme and what was Marcus Rashford campaigning for?

Fabelo, T., Thompson, M., Plotkin, M., Carmichal, D., Marchbanks, M., & Booth, E (2011) ‘Breaking schools’ rules: A state-wide study of how school discipline relates to students’ success and juvenile justice involvement.’ New York: Council of State Governments Justice Center and Public Policy Research Institute. 

Gottfredson, G. Gottfredson, D. Payne, A. and Gottfredson, N (2005) ‘School climate predictors of school disorder: Results from the national study of delinquency prevention in schools.’, The Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 42, pp. 412–444. 

McGovern, M. McVicar, D. O’reilly, D. and Rowland, N. (2019) ‘The Impact of School Exclusion on Educational Achievement: Evidence from English Administrative Data’, International Journal of Population Data Science. 

Obsuth I, Murray AL, Malti T, Sulger P, Ribeaud D, Eisner M (2017) A non-bipartite propensity score analysis of the effects of teacher-student relationships on adolescent problem and prosocial behavior, Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 46 (8): 1661-1687. 

Petitclere, A. and Tremblay, R (2009) ‘Childhood Disruptive Behaviour Disorders: Review of Their Origin, Development, and Prevention. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Vol 54, No 4, April.  

Sanders, J. Liebenberg, L. and Munford, R (2020) ‘The impact of school exclusion on later justice system involvement: investigating the experiences of male and female students’, Educational Review, 72:3, 386-403. 

Tucker S (2013) Pupil vulnerability and school exclusion: Developing responsive pastoral policies and practices in secondary education in the UK, Pastoral Care in Education, 31: 279-291. 

Categories: Blog