Autis­tic pupils are shut out and failed – char­ity

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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.”

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