In Trouble at School

  • Even if you are in trouble at school, you still have your ‘children’s rights’
  • Your school can put consequences in place for you if you break the rules, but it still has to respect you
  • You should still get your education, even if you have broken the school rules

Wherever you are educated, there will be rules, or some kind of behaviour charter that you’re expected to follow. Your school may ask the pupils what they think of the rules, or they may not. However the ‘rules’ at your school or pupil referral unit are made, and whether they are called ‘rules’ or a ‘behaviour charter’ or something else, there will be consequences in place for pupils who decide not to follow them. This section of the website looks at your rights if you break the rules, and what could happen to you.

What are ‘school rules’?

Wherever you are educated there will be rules about how you are expected to behave. Although each school might have a different set of rules, they usually cover things like wearing school uniform, what time you have to be at school, doing homework, and your behaviour in school. This could include things like not running in corridors, and how you talk to teachers.

How will I know what the school rules are?

You have to be able to know what the school rules are so that you don’t break them accidentally! Your school will have school rules that might also be called a Behaviour Charter or a Code of Conduct. There might also be a behaviour management policy which will set out more detail about how the school rules will work. You should be able to find out what these rules are, so they might be on the school website, and in a contact book. Your head teacher has to make sure the rules are written down, and that everyone at school knows about them.

What will happen if I break the rules?

Every school will have a different approach to what happens when someone breaks the school rules or behaviour policy, so you will need to find out what happens at your school. Many schools have a ‘warning’ system so you will know if your behaviour is likely to get you into trouble if you carry on. For more serious problems, if you hurt someone or damage property, there may be consequences straight away. Your school can decide on what happen to pupils who don’t follow the school rules, as long as they do this properly.

What is exclusion?

Although every school will have its own approach to what happens if you don’t behave in the way school expects, every school has the power to tell you that you can’t come to school. This could be for a few days, or for longer. In the most serious case, you might even be permanently excluded from a school.

Once you are 11, you will be told by your school if you are going to be excluded, and about your right to appeal against that decision. Your parents or carer will be told as well.

Being excluded from school is a serious thing, and it is usually a ‘last resort’ for a school. Sometimes, if what you have done is also breaking the law, the school might exclude you even if it is the first time you have been in trouble at school.

If you go to a Pupil Referral Unit, you can be excluded from there too.

What happens if I am going to be excluded?

Before your school decides whether to exclude you it will need to investigate what has happened. This is an important decision which will affect you, so your school should talk to you about what happened. They should find out your side of the story, and it’s important that you tell them everything about what happened – especially if something happened to make you behave like you did. This could include being bullied by another pupil. The school also has to make sure it checks its own rules, and thinks about what alternatives there are to exclusion. The school needs to think about what is in your best interests.

How long will I be excluded for?
Your school can decide how long to exclude you for. It could be for a morning, a lunchtime, or an afternoon. It could be for a few days, or it could be permanently. Your school does have to fix the amount of time you will be excluded for – e.g. ‘2 days’. Unless you are permanently excluded from the school, you can’t be excluded from school for more than 45 days in any school year. This applies if you go to a new school or to a Pupil Referral Unit during the school year – the new school has to take account of any exclusions that have already happened that year at your old school.
What happens while I’m excluded?

Just because you have been excluded doesn’t mean your education stops. Your school should carry on setting work for you and marking it, until you return to school, unless you have been excluded for a day or less. Even if you have been permanently excluded, your school should carry on giving you work and marking it until the appeals process has finished or you or your parents or carers say that you aren’t going to appeal.

If I am permanently excluded does this mean I don’t go to any school?

No. You still have the right to education, so even if you are permanently excluded from one school, you can go to a different school, or you may go to a Pupil Referral Unit for a while. Other schools can’t stop you from going just because you have been permanently excluded from another school.

Can my school ask my parents or carer to keep me away from school?

No! If your school thinks your behaviour has been so bad that you shouldn’t come to that school, they need to follow the proper procedure to exclude you. Your school shouldn’t ask your parents or carer to keep you at home. Apart from anything else, this doesn’t give you the opportunity to put your side of the story, and it could make it difficult for you to carry on getting your education.

What happens if I am ‘sent home from school’ because I’ve broken the behaviour policy?

This is an exclusion, so there should be an investigation, and it should be recorded as an exclusion. You might be sent home for a specific reason – for example, if you have come to school without the proper school uniform, you might be sent home to change. This might not be an exclusion if you are told to come straight back to school.

Can I be excluded ‘for my own good’?

Your school can’t use exclusion as a way to keep you safe – for example if you are being bullied. The school needs to deal with the bullying, and not avoid the problem by making you stay away from school.

Are there any rules about how teachers have to talk and behave to me?

The way your school is managed and especially how you are treated at school, should respect your rights and dignity. Your teachers are allowed to deal with your behaviour if it doesn’t match up to the rules of the school. When they do this, they have to act ‘reasonably’. This means that what happens to you should match your behaviour. If you’ve done something silly you should only get a small punishment. If you have done something more serious or you are continually breaking rules, the consequences might be more serious. The teacher also has to think about whether there are any reasons why you might have behaved in the way you have done, including your age, and whether you are living with a disability or have other needs.

Can my teachers discipline me if I’m not in school?

If you’re not at school but still doing something related to school, even where no teacher is there in charge, a teacher can still deal with your behaviour. This could include your behaviour on a school bus travelling to or from school. If you’re on a school trip, or playing sport for your school or doing something else ‘with school’ the school rules will still apply.

Can my teacher use force against me?

You have the right to be protected from violence or abuse by anyone who looks after you. Your teachers should never use violence against you or abuse you. If your behaviour means that you will be breaking the law (or would be breaking the law if you were old enough), or that property might get damaged, or it’s seriously disrupting school, your teachers can use what is called ‘reasonable force’ to try and stop this happening. This means that a teacher might be allowed to hold you back to stop others being hurt or upset.

In most cases, the teacher should warn you what’s about to happen before he or she steps in to use force to stop whatever is happening. As soon as the situation has passed, the teacher should stop.

Your teachers are not allowed to hit or smack you, and they cannot use force to punish you. They can only use force to stop what is happening. If you did get hurt while the teacher was using force to stop something else happening, this might be allowed.

Can I be searched at school?

It’s a criminal offence to take a knife into school, so you would be breaking the law if you did that. School staff have the right to search you, and your possessions, to see if you have a knife, even if you don’t agree to being searched. The school must have a reason to think you might have a knife with you before it can search you.

There are rules about how a teacher or other member of school staff can search you and what happens to your property if a knife or anything else that might be connected to breaking the law. You should only be searched by someone who is the same gender as you, and there should be another teacher or member of staff of the same sex with you. If the school is going to search your possessions, you have to be there, as well as another member of staff.

Your school might also decide to use some kind of screening for all pupils. This could be a walk through arch, or using a hand-held ‘wand’ to scan you. Your school might scan you even if it doesn’t have a reason to think you might have a knife. Your school should only do this if it is generally worried about pupils bringing knives or other weapons into school, and they should think about whether they need to screen all pupils all the time. School will be doing this to try and keep school safe and to protect everyone from violence at school – but you also have the right to privacy, so the school has to balance these two things.

Can I be put in a room on my own?

If something has happened and you are angry and need to calm down, your teacher might decide that it’s appropriate for you to be taken to a quiet room.

You should never be locked in a room on your own. If a teacher thinks that locking you in a room is necessary in an emergency while he or she sorts something out, you shouldn’t be left on your own, and you should only be locked in for a short time in an emergency. You should never be locked in a room on your own as a punishment.

Can the teacher confiscate my mobile phone?

If your school has clear rules about using mobiles at school which includes confiscation if you don’t follow the rules, then if you don’t respect this, your school may ask you to hand over your phone. If the school is going to do this, it needs to think carefully about what the consequences might be, and make sure it takes everything into account before taking away your phone. If taking your phone away for longer than the school day might make you vulnerable or put you at risk in some way, it probably won’t be reasonable for the school to do this.

What happens if my phone gets broken or lost while it is confiscated?

Provided your phone has been confiscated by a teacher following a school behaviour policy or rule, the school or the teacher doesn’t have to do anything if your phone is damaged or lost while it has been confiscated.

If I break a school rule, will I get in trouble with the police?

Most of the time, breaking a school rule won’t mean getting in trouble with the police. The school will have its own consequences for things like not wearing the right kind of school uniform, not turning up on time or not doing homework. The police wouldn’t be involved in anything like that.

If you hurt someone in school, or are involved in serious bullying, or if you steal something, then the police might get involved. If you have broken a law as well as a school rule, the school will have its own way of dealing with it, but they may also get the police involved. Even if the school don’t tell the police what has happened, someone else might. For example, if you hurt someone else at school, they might tell the police what has happened. You can find out more about being in trouble with the police here.