Behaviour sanctions: what you can and can't do

Get to grips with the rules on sanctions, including guidance on detentions, isolation and confiscating prohibited items.

Last reviewed on 17 August 2023
See updates
School types: All · School phases: All
Ref: 5698
  1. All sanctions must be 'lawful'
  2. There are additional rules for some types of sanctions 
  3. Detention
  4. Removal from the classroom
  5. Searching pupils and confiscating items
  6. Using reasonable force

All sanctions must be 'lawful'

For a sanction to be considered lawful, it must: 

  • Not breach any other legislation (for example, in respect of disability, special educational needs (SEN), race and other equalities and human rights)
  • Be reasonable in all the circumstances, and proportionate – you must take into account any relevant special circumstances, including the pupil's age, any SEN or disability they have, and any religious requirements affecting them
  • Be sanctioned by a paid member of school staff or a member of staff authorised by the headteacher (for example, an adult volunteer)
  • Be awarded on your school premises or while the pupil is under the lawful charge of a member of staff

Note: corporal punishment is illegal in all circumstances.

These requirements are outlined on page 19 of the behaviour guidance

Behaviour that occurs outside of school premises 

You can sanction pupils for poor behaviour that occurs outside of school premises, where it is reasonable to do so. This includes behaviour that: