Quick Guide: The headteacher’s power to cancel an exclusion

Quick Guide: The headteacher’s power to cancel an exclusion


This Quick Guide covers the law and practice that govern how a headteacher can and should exercise their discretion to cancel an exclusion. This process is also known as withdrawing or rescinding an exclusion. 

For directions on how to ask a headteacher to withdraw a permanent exclusion, see the Step-by-Step Guide: Finding an alternative to permanent exclusion

The headteacher's power to cancel an exclusion

In accordance with paragraph 13 of the school exclusions guidance, the headteacher can cancel any exclusion that has already begun (or one that has not yet begun), but this can only happen when the governing board has not yet met to consider whether the pupil should be reinstated. Where an exclusion is cancelled:

  • The headteacher must notify the parents, the governing board, the LA and the pupil’s social worker and VSH as applicable, without delay. The notification must also provide the reason for the cancellation;
  • The governing board’s duty to consider reinstatement ceases, and there is no requirement to hold a meeting to consider reinstatement;
  • Parents (or the excluded pupil if they are 18 years or older) should be offered the opportunity to meet the headteacher to discuss the circumstances that led to the exclusion being cancelled which should be arranged without delay;
  • The pupil must be allowed back into the school from which they were excluded without delay;
  • Any days spent out of school as a result of any exclusion, prior to the cancellation will count towards the maximum of 45 school days permitted in any school year.

When might this power be used? 

The power to cancel an exclusion after it has begun can protect against an unjust use of school exclusion. It can be used, for example, if a mistake has been made in the process, new evidence has come to light, or a headteacher has decided to consider an alternative option to exclusion, such as a managed move. 

Reintegration in the event of a cancelled exclusion 

The exclusions guidance states that, in the event of a cancelled exclusion, the pupil must be allowed back into the school from which they were excluded without delay. While no firm time limit is specified, a school must take all reasonable and practicable steps to ensure that the pupil is reintegrated back into the school community. Headteachers should consider how they will manage the return of a pupil to school after a cancellation is issued to ensure that a young person's return is not delayed unreasonably.

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This information is correct at the time of writing, 5th September 2023. The law in this area is subject to change.

Coram Children’s Legal Centre cannot be held responsible if changes to the law outdate this publication. Individuals may print or photocopy information in CCLC publications for their personal use.

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