You are here:

Last reviewed on 6 September 2021
Ref: 5698
School types: All · School phases: All

Get to grips with the rules on sanctions and disciplining poor behaviour, including around detentions, isolation and confiscating prohibited items.

All punishments must be 'lawful'

For a punishment 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 the pupil's age, any SEN or disability they have, and any religious requirements affecting them
  • Be awarded by a paid member of school staff or a member of staff authorised by the headteacher (the headteacher may extend this power to adult volunteers)
  • Be awarded on your school premises or while the pupil is under the charge of a member of staff

Note: corporal punishment is illegal in all circumstances.

These requirements are outlined on page 7 of the DfE's advice on behaviour and discipline in schools.

In addition to meeting the criteria above, there are rules for some punishments on what your

More from The Key


Bitesize training with a big impact

Our on-demand training has your whole board covered and lets them learn at a time and pace that suits them.

Help your new governors hit the ground running with our expertly-designed induction training, and our role-specific courses support your link governors develop key skills and confidence in their role.


New eLearning: DSL refresher training

Your DSL’s training should be refreshed at least once every 2 years. 

Designed in collaboration with safeguarding experts, our 2.5 hour online refresher training course reminds DSLs how to put their knowledge into practice, with in-depth, real-world scenarios.


The Key has taken great care in publishing this article. However, some of the article's content and information may come from or link to third party sources whose quality, relevance, accuracy, completeness, currency and reliability we do not guarantee. Accordingly, we will not be held liable for any use of or reliance placed on this article's content or the links or downloads it provides. This article may contain information sourced from public sector bodies and licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.