Suspensions from school are regarded as an authorised absence. They normally occur as a result of a child’s behaviour at school which breaches the schools code of conduct and results in the school taking action in line with their school discipline policy.
The Education Authority has a Scheme for the Suspension and Expulsion of Pupils in Controlled Schools.
CCMS prepares a scheme to be followed in relation to the suspension or expulsion of pupils by all Catholic maintained schools.
In relation to the suspension of a pupil from school parents should be aware that:
- A pupil may be suspended only by the Principal.
- An initial period of suspension shall not exceed five school days.
- A pupil may be suspended from school for not more than forty-five school days in any one school year.
- The Principal shall not extend a period of suspension except with the prior approval of the Chairperson of the Board of Governors.
- Each individual extension may not exceed five days but individual extensions may run consecutively.
There is no independent appeals system for suspensions. It is the responsibility of the Principal and the Chair of the Board of Governors to ensure the process is operated fairly.
When a pupil is suspended, the Principal must immediately invite the parent to visit the school to discuss the suspension and will also provide written reasons for the suspension and period of suspension to the parent.
If a parent or child disagrees with the decision to suspend, you should be given the opportunity to ask that either no action is taken or, where the child accepts fault, ask that alternative disciplinary measures are taken.
Your child has a right to education even when suspended. While your child is suspended, you should make arrangements with the school for his/her education during this period. For example, you could make arrangements to collect school work for you child so that he/she does not fall behind in their education while absent.
An expulsion is the most severe form of disciplinary action that a school can take and as such they normally only occur as a last resort.
The expulsion process is set out in the Regulations which state that a pupil can only be expelled if:
- They have served a period of suspension.
- A consultation about potential expulsion has taken place between the parents, Principal, Chair of the Board of Governors, an authorised officer from the Education Authority and, if the school is a Catholic maintained school, an authorised officer from CCMS. This meeting can still take place even if you decide not to attend.
- At the consultation meeting, there must be a discussion about the future education of the pupil.
- 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.
- If the decision is taken to expel the pupil, the Principal must give the parents written notification of the right to appeal the decision to an independent tribunal, the time limits for lodging an appeal and where any appeal should be lodged.
- Yes, you can appeal to the Education Authority’s independent tribunal. Details of how to appeal should be provided in the Principal’s letter confirming the expulsion. If you do not receive details about an appeal, you should contact the Education Authority immediately for clarity and confirmation.
- There are very short and strict timelines for lodging an appeal (10 days) so ensure that you are comply with this.
- If you wish to appeal the expulsion, you should write a letter to the tribunal confirming your wish to appeal and setting out your reasons for this. You will then be contacted by the Clerk to the tribunal and invited to attend the appeal hearing.
At the hearing, the tribunal will hear from both you and the expelling authority and will also consider all written evidence provided by both. The tribunal will also consider whether the expulsion procedure was followed properly.
Your child has a right to education. At the consultation meeting, you should discuss your child’s future education provision. While waiting to start a new school, you should request that arrangements are made for your child’s education in the interim, for example, work provided to do at home or home tuition.
If a decision is made to expel your child, you should immediately contact the Education Authority to urgently discuss how you can find a new school for your child. You may be contacted by an Education Welfare Officer who can advise and support you.
Advice for schools regarding the notification of pupil suspensions and expulsions to EA
Schools should now send all suspension and expulsion notifications of pupils to EA via the AnyComms Plus website. Details on how to do this can be found on our Guidance on How to Use AnyComms Plus. It is essential that this information is sent using the online form on the day that the suspension is issued.
Suspensions should be issued for a maximum of 5 days in accordance with the legislation within DE Circular Number: 2021/04 - Suspensions and Expulsions Arrangements for pupils in grant-aided schools in Northern Ireland. Should a further period of suspension be required a new suspension form must be submitted providing the rationale to justify an extended period of suspension.
All forms should be completed in full, with accurate details. For SEN pupils if required use new SEN stages.
Schools who require a Consultative Meeting should send all information to EA through the AnyComms Plus website at least 5 days prior to the meeting. The form that is to be completed to request an EA Rep to attend a Consultative Meeting is available at Request for an EA Rep to attend a Consultative Meeting.
The Anycomms Plus website should be used to notify EA Children and Young People Services (EA CYPS) of all Expulsions. This notification should be received on the same day as the expulsion letter is issued. Schools should ensure that parents are made aware of their right of appeal.
The regulations relating to the suspension and expulsion of pupils are contained in the Schools (Suspension and Expulsion of Pupils) Regulations (NI) 1995 as amended by the Schools (Suspension and Expulsion of Pupils) (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 1998.
Pupil Behaviour and the School Discipline Policy
A school’s disciplinary policy is required to describe the standards of behaviour expected from pupils and to outline the procedures and sanctions to be adopted when these guidelines are not adhered to. Suspensions and expulsions from schools are the most serious sanctions that can be imposed on pupils. A serious breach, or persistent breaches of the school's discipline policy can result in the suspension or expulsion of a pupil.
Parents are advised to work with schools to address any behaviour concerns when they occur.
Schemes for the Suspension and Expulsion of Pupils
All schools must have a scheme in which the procedures to be followed when suspending or expelling pupils are set out.
- 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.
The Consultation Meeting
Prior to the consultation meeting, you should request in writing copies of any records, statements or other documentation which will be referred to in the meeting, for example, your child’s disciplinary record or witness statements. If these are not provided in advance, then you should again request copies at the start of the consultation meeting.
At the consultation meeting, the pupil should be able to give their version of events, either orally or in writing. There must be consideration of options other than expulsion and whether these may work. There should also be a discussion about the future education of the pupil.