Autistic pupils are shut out and failed – charity
THE number of autistic children being excluded from schools in Sefton has shot up, amid warnings that vulnerable students are being “failed” by the education system.
Data from the Department for Education has revealed that 23 children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder as their primary special educational need were excluded from primary, secondary and special schools in Sefton in the 2015/2016 academic year, the last year for which data is available – up from 11 in 2011/2012.
While Sefton’s schools have seen an increase in the population of autistic pupils since 2011, the charity Ambitious About Autism argued that the figures cannot be explained by this fact alone, as the rate at which exclusions have increased outstripped the increase in autistic pupils.
Exclusions were also up in the school population as a whole, but by a far smaller margin than in the case of autistic pupils alone – 15.6%.
However, exclusions of pupils with special educational needs (SEN) more generally – of whom autistic children are just one portion – fell over the five year period, a trend that Ambitious About Autism said shows autistic children are being excluded simply “because they are children with autism”.
The charity said exclusions can cause mental health problems for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, as well as having an impact on their attainment at school.
A Sefton spokesman said: “The legal responsibility for excluding pupils rests with the headteacher of a school but in accordance with equalities law, schools must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to ensure all students get the right support.
“It’s important that all schools understand and support their autistic pupils. We’re working with schools in Sefton to develop autism-friendly schools which help support children and young people with autism.”