Legislation and guidance for schools on the suspension and expulsion of pupils.

Notifying the Education Authority

Circular 2015/19 provides guidance for schools on notifying the Education Authority about the suspension of a pupil.

Appeal tribunals

Circular 1994/03 contains the Regulations for the constitution and procedure of the appeal tribunals for expelled pupils.

Regulating suspension and expulsion in grant-aided schools

Circular 1995/09 summarises the Regulations specifying the matters to be included in schemes for the suspension and expulsion of pupils from grant-aided schools.

Circular 1998/25 advises of new Regulations on the suspension and expulsion of pupils

Links to the regulations:

Change to current procedures

The consultation document below, published in March 2004, outlines the findings and recommendations of a review group set up to examine suspension and expulsion procedures and contains proposals for change.

The Education and Libraries Order 2006 contains four provisions intended to change the arrangements for the suspension and expulsion of pupils from school:

  • Article 31 specifies that all grant-aided schools would be required to use the same scheme for the suspension and expulsion of pupils – a scheme prepared by the Department in consultation with all key interests
  • Article 32 sets out arrangements for a new system for appeals against expulsions
  • Article 33 sets out new arrangements for appeals against suspensions
  • Article 34 clarifies the legislation on the responsibility for the education of suspended pupils so that it resides with the Board of Governors of the school (rather than the Education Authority)

To date, Articles 31, 32 and 33 have yet to be commenced.  Article 34 was commenced on 16 December 2011.

 Circular 2011/25 advises schools of the commencement (on 16 December 2011) of Article 34 of the Education (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 which places a statutory requirement on Boards of Governors to arrange for the provision of suitable education for registered pupils of the school when they are suspended.

Summary of current procedures for suspensions and expulsions

All schools must have a scheme in which the procedures to be followed when suspending or expelling pupils are set out. The matters that must be covered in the scheme and the authority responsible for its preparation are prescribed by legislation. In brief:

  • the Education Authority prepares a scheme specifying the  procedures to be followed in relation to the suspension or expulsion of pupils in controlled schools in its area
  • the CCMS prepares a scheme to be followed in relation to the suspension or expulsion of pupils by all Catholic maintained schools
  • the Board of Governors of each voluntary school, grant-maintained integrated school and Irish-medium school must prepare a scheme specifying the procedure to be followed in relation to the suspension or expulsion of pupils from the school

Suspensions

Under the existing legislation:

  • a pupil can be suspended only by the Principal
  • an initial suspension must not exceed 5 days
  • a pupil can only be suspended for a maximum of 45 school days in a school year
  • the Principal cannot extend a period of suspension without the prior approval of the Chair of the Board of Governors
  • the Principal must immediately give written notification of a suspension to the parent of the pupil, the Chair of the Board of Governors, the Education Authority Region in which the school is located and (in the case of a pupil at a Catholic maintained school) to CCMS

The suspension process is internal to the school and it is the responsibility of the Principal and the Chair of the Board of Governors to ensure it operates in a fair manner.  There is currently no independent appeals system against a suspension.

Expulsions

The expulsion of a pupil is legal only if the following requirements are satisfied:

  • the pupil has served a period of suspension
  • a consultation has taken place between the Principal, the parent of the pupil, the Chair of the Board of Governors, an authorised officer from the Education Authority and (in the case of a Catholic maintained school) an authorised officer from CCMS (the consultation must include consultations about the future provision of suitable education for the pupil concerned)
  • the decision to expel the pupil is made by the appropriate ‘expelling authority’ which is the Education Authority in the case of pupils attending controlled schools and the Board of Governors in all other cases
  • where a final decision has been taken to expel a pupil the Principal must immediately notify the parent(s) of their right to appeal that decision to an independent appeal tribunal established by the Education Authority and the arrangements and timetable for doing so

Statistics on suspension and expulsions

Schools are legally obliged to inform the Education Authority when a pupil is suspended or expelled from school.  The Department collects statistics on the number of suspensions and expulsions from the EA annually.  These statistics can be viewed in the ‘Facts and Figures’ section or by following the link below.

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