Rates of permanent exclusions and suspensions in England 2019/20

The rates and reasons for permanent exclusions and suspension in England for the 2019/20 academic year

The figures presented cover the 2019/20 academic year, which was interrupted by the first national lockdown on 23 March 2020, during the spring term.  While permanent exclusions and suspensions were still possible throughout the academic year, school closures have had a substantial effect on the number of permanent exclusions and suspensions and, therefore, caution should be taken when comparing figures across years.

  • The rate of permanent exclusions has decreased from 0.10 in 2018/19 to 0.06. This is the equivalent of six in every 10,000 pupils.
  • At 5,100, there were almost 3,000 fewer permanent exclusions in 2019/20 than in 2018/19.
  • The rate of suspensions has decreased from 5.36 in 2017/19 to 3.76, a fall in numbers from 438,000 to 310,000. This is the equivalent of 376 in every 10,000 pupils.
  • Looking at the autumn term only; there were 3,200 permanent exclusions in 2019/20 (up five per cent from 2018/19) and there were 178,400 suspensions (up 14%).
  • Persistent disruptive behaviour continues to be the most common reason for permanent exclusions and suspensions (both 34%).

Permanent exclusion

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, 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).

The number of permanent exclusions decreased in 2019/20 from 7,900 to 5,100. This is driven by the effect of the national lockdown that started in the spring term.  The overall rate for permanent exclusions is 0.06 in 2019/20, down from 0.10; this is the equivalent of six in every 10,000 pupils.

Looking across terms, there were 3,200 permanent exclusions in the autumn term 2019/20. This is a five per cent increase on the same period in 2018/19 (from 3,000). Across school types, permanent exclusions:

  • increased by 20% in primary schools (77 permanent exclusions);
  • increased by three per cent in secondary schools (77 permanent exclusions);
  • were stable in special schools.

The first national lockdown occurred on 23 March 2020, during the 2019/20 spring term. The number of permanent exclusions in this term is down from 2,700 in 2018/19 to 1,850.

There were only 40 permanent exclusions in the 2019/2020 summer term. Following the lockdown, schools were only open to pupils of key workers and vulnerable children, and all other children were learning remotely.

The most common reason for permanent exclusion was persistent disruptive behaviour. Just over a third (34%) of all permanent exclusions were for persistent disruptive behaviour in 2019/20, similar to 2018/19 (35%). This equates to 1,700 permanent exclusions in 2019/20, down from 2,800 in 2018/19, showing the impact of school closures.

The proportion of drug and alcohol-related permanent exclusions increased from nine per cent in 2018/19 to 10% in 2019/20, and the proportion of permanent exclusions for physical assault against an adult increased from 10 to 12%.

Suspension rate

Suspensions, previously known as ‘fixed period exclusions’, refers to a pupil who is excluded from a school for a set period of time. A suspension can involve a part of the school day and 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 exclusion rate is calculated as the total number of suspensions, divided by the total number of pupils (x100).

As expected due to school closures, suspensions are substantially lower than in previous years; there were still over 310,000 suspensions in 2019/20 however, a rate of 3.76. This translates to 376 per 10,000 pupils. Previously suspensions had been increasing in number, largely driven by increases in suspensions in secondary schools and, to a lesser extent, in primary schools. In 2019/20, decreases were seen across all school types. 

In the autumn term 2019/20 there was an increase of 21,000 suspensions (up 14%) on the previous autumn from 157,100 to 178,400. Across school types, suspensions:

  • increased by 21% in primary schools (5,000 suspensions);
  • increased by 12% in secondary schools (15,600 suspensions);
  • decreased by 13% in special schools (700 suspensions).

There was then a reduction in spring term 2019/20 compared to the previous spring and only 1,200 suspensions in the summer term, less than one per cent of the previous summer. 

The number of suspensions in pupil referral units has also decreased, from 30,800 to 21,700. This is a rate of 141.01, down from 191.09 in 2018/19. Both the rate and number of suspensions were at their highest levels in 2018/19.

Persistent disruptive behaviour was also the most common reason for suspensions at 34%, up from 31% in 2018/19.  As a proportion of the total number of suspensions, there was also an increase in verbal abuse or threatening behaviour against an adult (15% to 16%), whilst there was a decrease in ‘other reasons’ (19% to 16%). The proportions in the remaining reasons stayed broadly the same.

The rate of pupils with more than one suspension has decreased from 2.44 to 1.87; this represents a reverse in the trend that has been seen in recent years, demonstrating the effect of lockdown on school suspensions. The total number of pupils with more than one suspension has gone from 199,800 in 2018/19 to 154,500 in 2019/20.

Almost a half of suspensions were for one day and 98% were for five days or fewer. While there was a reduction in the number of suspensions, these proportions are similar to 2018/19. Four-fifths of pupils with one or more suspension missed a total of a week or less, and 79% of pupils who had one or more suspensions missed a total of five days or fewer throughout the year, with 30% missing a single day. 

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