The role of the Government is to give schools the powers they need to provide a safe and structured environment in which teachers can teach and children can learn.
The Government expects:
- all pupils to show respect and courtesy towards teachers and other staff and towards each other;
- parents to encourage their children to show that respect and support the school’s authority to discipline its pupils;
- head teachers to help to create that culture of respect by supporting their staff’s authority to discipline pupils and ensuring that this happens consistently across the school;
- governing bodies and head teachers to deal with allegations against teachers and other school staff quickly, fairly and consistently in a way that protects the pupil and at the same time supports the person who is the subject of the allegation; and
- that every teacher will be good at managing and improving children’s behaviour.
This document summarises the legal powers and duties that govern behaviour and attendance in school and explains how they apply to teachers, governing bodies, pupils and parents.
The behaviour policy
Every school must have a behaviour policy. The governing body is responsible for setting general principles that inform the behaviour policy. The governing body must consult the head teacher, school staff, parents and pupils when developing these principles.
Head teachers are responsible for developing the behaviour policy in the context of this framework. They must decide the standard of behaviour expected of pupils at the school and how that standard will be achieved, the school rules, any disciplinary penalties for breaking the rules and rewards for good behaviour. The behaviour policy must include measures to prevent all forms of bullying among pupils. Head teachers must publicise the school behaviour policy, in writing, to staff, parents and pupils at least once a year.
Powers to discipline
Teachers, teaching assistants and other paid staff with responsibility for pupils have the power to discipline pupils whose behaviour is unacceptable, who break the school rules or who fail to follow a reasonable instruction.
Their power to discipline applies to pupil behaviour in school and outside school, in certain circumstances.
Teachers, teaching assistants and other paid staff with responsibility for pupils can impose any reasonable disciplinary penalty in response to poor behaviour. Reasonable penalties can include: confiscation, retention or disposal of a pupil’s property; and detention. Head teachers can also decide to exclude a pupil for a fixed period (to suspend) or to permanently exclude them.
School staff can search pupils with their consent for any item.
Head teachers and staff authorised by the head teacher have the power to search pupils or their possessions, without consent, where they suspect the pupil has a “prohibited item”. Prohibited items are:
- knives and weapons
- illegal drugs
- stolen items
- tobacco and cigarette papers
- pornographic images
- any article that has been or is likely to be used to commit an offence , cause personal injury or damage to property
- any item banned by the school rules which has been identified in the rules as an item which may be searched for.
Use of reasonable force
All school staff have the power to use reasonable force to prevent pupils committing an offence, injuring themselves or others or damaging property, and to maintain good order and discipline in the classroom.
Head teachers and staff authorised by the head teacher can use such force as is reasonable when searching a pupil without consent for prohibited items except where the search is for an item banned by the school rules.
Allegations of abuse against staff
Allegations of abuse must be taken seriously, but schools should ensure they deal with allegations quickly in a fair and consistent way that provides effective protection for the child and supports the person who is the subject of the allegation. Every effort must be made to maintain confidentiality and guard against unwanted publicity while an allegation is being investigated. Suspension must not be used as an automatic response when an allegation has been reported.
The school’s behaviour policy should set out the disciplinary action that will be taken against pupils who are found to have made malicious accusations against school staff.
The head teacher decides whether to exclude a pupil, for a fixed term or permanently, in line with the school’s behaviour policy, taking into account all the circumstances, the evidence available and the need to balance the interests of the pupil against those of the whole school community.
Parents have the right to make representations to the governing body (or discipline committee) about an exclusion and the governing body must review the exclusion decision in certain circumstances, which include all permanent exclusions7. Where a governing body upholds a permanent exclusion parents have the right to appeal the decision to an independent appeal panel.
Schools are under a duty to provide suitable full-time education for an excluded pupil from the sixth school day of any fixed period exclusion of more than five consecutive school days. Local authorities are under a duty to provide suitable full-time education from the sixth school day of a permanent exclusion.
Schools are required to have, and to ask parents to sign, a Home School Agreement that outlines the responsibilities of the parent and the school; including those around behaviour and attendance.
Parents are under a legal duty to ensure that their child (aged 5-16) receives a suitable full-time education either at a school or by making other suitable arrangements.
Where a child is not a registered pupil and other suitable arrangements are not made, the parent may receive a school attendance order from the local authority requiring them to register their child at a school.
For school-registered pupils or those attending Pupil Referral Units (PRUs), parents must ensure that their child attends punctually and regularly. If they do not, the school or local authority may ask them to sign a parenting contract or may issue a penalty sanction of £50 (rising to £100). The local authority may also prosecute a parent who fails to ensure their child’s regular school attendance or apply to the courts for an education supervision order in respect of the pupil himself/herself.
Parents have a clear role in making sure their child is well behaved at school. If they do not, the school or local authority may ask them to sign a parenting contract or may apply for a court-imposed parenting order.
Parents must take responsibility for their child, if excluded, and ensure that they are not in a public place without good reason during school hours within the first five school days of any exclusion. If they do not, the school or local authority may issue a penalty sanction of £50 (rising to £100).
Parents must also ensure that their child attends the suitable full time education provided by the school governing body or the local authority from the sixth day of exclusion.
Parents are expected to attend a reintegration interview following any fixed period exclusion from primary school and any fixed period exclusion of more than five days from secondary school. Failure to attend may make it more likely that the court will impose a parenting order if the school or local authority apply for one.
References to parent or parents are to fathers as well as mothers, unless otherwise stated.
- Access the full document here: DfE website.
Related DfE publications:
- Behaviour and discipline in schools – a guide for head teachers and school staff
- Behaviour and discipline in schools – guidance for governing bodies
- Screening, searching and confiscation – advice for head teachers, staff and governing bodies
- Use of reasonable force – Advice for head teachers, staff and governing bodies