Children with autism are illegally excluded from school activities study finds

A report by a charity has found that over 20,000 children could be affected by informal, temporary exclusions

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The Independent Online

Four in 10 children with autism have been temporarily excluded from school activities, it has been revealed.

The temporary informal exclusions are illegal, and as around 70,785 children in the UK have autism, more than 28,000 children may be affected, a report by the Ambitious about Autism charity predicts.

Their Research shows that many children with the condition are missing out on education because schools do not have the knowledge and skills to properly support them.

The exclusions involved children attending lessons on a part time basis, missing out on school trips and activities, and being asked to stay at home.

It urges that statutory guidance should be introduced that would see schools notifying the local authority of part-time schooling arrangements for children with special needs, as well as their plans to help children return to full-time education.

500 families and 1,000 school staff were surveyed for the report, the results of which was put with information collected from local councils.

Around a fifth of the parents who took part in the survey said that their child with autism had been formally excluded in the last year, while more than half said that they have kept their son or daughter out of school because they were concerned that the school was unable to provide the right support.

Researchers also found that 40 per cent of parents had been asked to collect their children from school at an unscheduled time, while 30 per cent said they had been asked not to bring their children into school.

The charity argues that while schools do have a legal right to formally exclude a child, this should be a last resort, and plans should be put in place to ensure the pupil is receiving an education.

The report notes that while over seven in 10 of autistic children are in mainstream schools, around 60% of teachers in England say they do not feel they have had enough training to teach pupils with the condition.

Jolanta Lasota, chief executive of Ambitious about Autism, called the results "shocking".

“All schools are legally bound to provide quality full-time education to all pupils, including children with autism," she said.

She added: “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.”

The report was published as part of Ambitious about Autism's Ruled Out campaign, which is calling for every school to have access to a specialist autism teacher and to ensure that families with children that have the condition know their rights.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “All councils must ensure children are educated in a placement which meets their needs, and we have been clear that schools have a duty to follow our strict rules when excluding pupils."

Additional reporting by Press Association