Quick Guide: Managed moves

Quick Guide: Managed moves


This Quick Guide covers the law and practice of managed moves, the process of moving a young person from the register of one school to the register of another.

A managed move does not require the family to make an application to a new school; it is done entirely by agreement between the headteachers.

Managed moves normally work by placing the young person on the register of both the sending school and the receiving school for a set period of time known as the trial period. During the trial period, the young person would be expected to meet certain conditions placed on them at the outset of the managed move. These can range from behavioural conditions, such as complying with the receiving school's behaviour policy, to academic standards, such as achieving certain grades in set tests.

If the young person successfully completes the trial period, they will move onto the register of the receiving school indefinitely and will be removed from the register of the sending school. If they are not successful, then they will be returned to the sending school. If the managed move was used as an attempt to avoid permanent exclusion, it will be likely that they will face exclusion upon return to the sending school.

For directions on using a managed move as an alternative to permanent exclusion, see the Step-by-Step Guide: Finding an alternative to permanent exclusion

For directions on using the relevant law to put arguments to the school's governors, see the Step-by-Step Guide: Preparing written arguments for the governing board

For directions on using the relevant law to put arguments to the IRP, see the Step-by-Step Guide: Preparing written arguments for the independent review panel

The Relevant Law

Managed moves are a voluntary arrangement between schools. This means that there are no circumstances in which a headteacher must agree to a managed move or even engage in the process of trying to find a school to move a young person to.

However, like with any decision a public body makes, the headteacher’s decision to engage or not engage in the process should be lawful, rational, fair, and in accordance with the provisions set out in the exclusions guidance. 

Permanent exclusion should be a last resort

The exclusions guidance sets out that a permanent exclusion should only ever be used where it is a last resort. In this context, "last resort" should be read in a common-sense way, meaning that all other options must have been exhausted first.

If a managed move is an available option, but the headteacher refuses to agree to it, then it is reasonable to expect them to provide a good reason for this decision. If they cannot provide a good reason, it may be argued that the exclusion has not been used as a last resort.

Public law principles

Public law principles apply to any decision a school makes, including whether to engage in the managed move process. This means that the decision should be lawful, rational, and fair.

Lawfulness requires that a school only act within the scope of powers that have been granted to it by the law. There is very little law on managed moves, except that families should never feel pressured to accept one under threat of exclusion. If a school attempted to force a managed move on a family in this way, it would likely be unlawful.

Rationality in public law requires that a school consider all relevant information but not irrelevant information before making a decision. Having considered this information, the decisions should be reasonable given the information available. This will mean that a school should consider circumstances relevant to a managed move, such as whether there is a receiving school available, whether it is likely to be successful, and whether it is an option the young person would benefit from.

Fairness in public law is the requirement that proper and fair procedures are followed when coming to a decision. This will mean that a headteacher cannot simply go through the motions of considering a managed move without any intention of actually making it work. If it is reasonable and lawful to pursue one, they should follow that process in good faith, attempting to secure a good outcome for the young person.

The process of a managed move

While there is a typical format for the process of a managed move, these are not established in law, and they may work differently in different parts of the country. Different local authorities and schools may have their own practices.

Managed moves should be offered as part of a planned intervention. The original school should be able to evidence that appropriate initial intervention has been carried out, including, where relevant, multi-agency support, or any statutory assessments were done or explored prior to a managed move.

The managed move should be preceded by information sharing between the original school and the new school, including data on prior and current attainment, academic potential, a risk assessment and advice on effective risk management strategies. It is also important for the new school to ensure that the pupil is provided with an effective integration strategy.

The typical format of a managed move is:

  • A school is identified to receive the young person as a new student. This may be identified by the family, the headteacher, or the local education authority.
  • The receiving school enrols the young person by adding them to their register.
  • A transfer agreement should be agreed upon between all parties that sets out the start date of the managed move, the length of the trial period, and the terms for successful completion.
  • The young person remains on the register of the sending school for the trial period.
  • If the young person successfully completes the trial period, then they transfer permanently to the new receiving school and are taken off the roll of the sending school.
  • If, during the trial period, the receiving school feels that the process has broken down, then the young person may be returned to the sending school.
  • If returned to the sending school, the young person may face exclusion again.

It's important to note that a managed move requires the consent of all parties, including the young person's parents. If a parent believes that they are being pressured into a managed move or is unhappy with a managed move, they can take up the issue through the school’s formal complaints procedure with the governing board and, where appropriate, the local authority.

Managed transfers

Some local authorities will offer a guarantee to the sending school that if the managed move fails, the young person will be transferred to the responsibility of the local authority, not the sending school.

This is sometimes called a "managed transfer ". Managed transfers may result in the young person being placed in alternative provision if they do not complete the trial period, such as a pupil referral unit.

The benefit is that the sending school's headteacher may have more incentive to go ahead with the move, as it is often the anxiety that the young person will fail the trial and return to the school that causes their reluctance to engage. However, the downside is that if the young person does not successfully complete the trial, they may end up being placed in a PRU without having the benefit of challenging the exclusion.

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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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