Four in 10 children with autism in England were illegally excluded from school during a 12-month period, according to a new survey carried out by the charity Ambitious about Autism. If applied to all of England’s 70,785children with autism, this could equate to more than 28,000 illegal exclusions.
Parents and carers of children with autism surveyed for the new report Ruled Out: why are children with autism missing out on education? revealed:
- 4 in 10 children (39%) had been subject to informal – and therefore illegal – exclusions. One in 10 parents whose children were illegally excluded said it happened daily
- nearly a third (30%) of parents reported being asked by schools to keep their child at home, itself a form of illegal exclusion
- a fifth of parents (21%) said their child with autism had been formally excluded from school
- over half of parents (51%) had kept their child out of school for fear the school was unable to provide appropriate support.
Ambitious about Autism’s research shows many schools do not have the right knowledge, skills or resources to support children with autism, which often leads to exclusion procedures that break the law. Typically this can mean requiring parents to collect their children from school at short notice, refusing to allow children to take part in social activities and school trips, asking parents not to bring their children into school, or placing a child on a part-time timetable.
Schools do have a legal right to formally exclude a child but this should only be used as a last resort, for example to ensure the safety of the child, staff or other pupils. If a child is formally excluded it is vital that decisions are made in partnership with the family and the local authority focussing on the child’s best interests. It is paramount that a clear plan for the child’s continued education is agreed as soon as possible.
Jolanta Lasota, Chief Executive of Ambitious about Autism, said: “It is shocking so many children with autism are missing out on education. All schools are legally bound to provide quality full-time education to all pupils, including children with autism. Asking parents to collect their children early or putting them on part-time hours is against the law and fails to address the underlying need for schools to make reasonable adjustments to include children with autism.
“We know illegal exclusions also affect a child’s family life. Having to collect a child puts intolerable pressure on parents and their working lives; it severely impacts their financial situation and often makes work impossible. We know schools can and do support children with autism to learn, thrive and achieve. All schools need to build their capacity to support children with autism and not use exclusions as a way of managing their special needs.”
We already know, despite the fact 70% of children with autism are in mainstream schools, that 60% of teachers in England do not feel they have had adequate training to teach children with autism and 35% of teachers think it has become harder in the last 12 months to access specialist support for children with autism.
Clare Moore, parent of a child illegally excluded from school, said: “I have lost count of the number of times different schools have rung and asked me to collect my son early or keep him at home because they could not support his needs. It has been really distressing for him because it interrupted his routine and he never knew how long he would be in school for each day. It has also had a massive impact on our family life because I had to give up work as I had to be available at short notice.”
Ambitious about Autism’s Ruled Out campaign aims to ensure:
- every school has access to a specialist autism teacher, to build capacity among school staff and to support children with autism to learn and achieve
- every family of a child with autism knows their rights, and has the resources to help their child get the support they are entitled to at school
- every local authority sets out in its ‘local offer’ the support available in its area to ensure children with autism have access to quality full-time education.
Sign up to support the Ruled Out campaign and view the full report at www.ambitiousaboutautism.org.uk/ruledout
Ambitious about Autism is the national charity for children and young people with autism. The charity provides services, raises awareness and understanding, and campaigns to make the ordinary possible for children and young people with autism. Find out more at www.ambitiousaboutautism.org.uk