UK charity Ambitious about Autism has launched a new resource aimed at helping parents take action against illegal school exclusions.
The charity estimates that 26,000 children and young people with autism were unlawfully deprived of education last year.
The new resource – available here – includes practical advice and guidance on what an illegal exclusion is and how parents can hold schools that break the rules to account. The charity has produced it as part of its ‘When will we learn?’ campaign.
Any exclusion that is not formally recorded by a school is in breach of the law — but research by Ambitious about Autism revealed serious problems with how this law is enforced.
The charity finds that thousands of children and young people with autism and special educational needs (SEN) have been subjected to informal or ‘unofficial’ exclusions, such as sending a pupil home ‘to cool off’ – which are not reported. This means schools are not being sanctioned when the law is broken.
Its new guidance aims to help families affected by illegal exclusions to understand their rights, as well as raise awareness of the scale of the problem with decision-makers.
Elizabeth Archer, Policy and Campaigns Director at Ambitious about Autism, said:
Thousands of families are struggling to get justice for illegal exclusions. Sending a child home from school illegally is not only a stressful and disrupting experience for the pupil and their families — it can also be incredibly difficult to challenge.
This new guidance aims to equip people with knowledge about their rights when illegal exclusions take place. It is also designed to increase awareness among decision-makers about the scale of the problem — so we can work together to stamp out this practice once and for all.
Anne Longfield OBE, Children’s Commissioner for England, said:
Illegal exclusions from school are a very serious issue, and one that disproportionally effects some children — including those with special educational needs. In 2013, my office conducted an Inquiry into illegal exclusions from school and found that some children were being let down by a system that excluded them without accountability and causing significant impact both on those children’s experience of childhood, and on their later life chances.
I am glad that Ambitious about Autism are supporting families to challenge illegal exclusions of children with autism through the practical guidance they are publishing today and that this will ultimately help to put an end to the illegal exclusion of children and young people with autism from our schools.
Latest figures from the Department of Education show that the number of times children with autism were legally excluded from school in the past year rose to over 9,000. In 2014/15 this number was 7,360.
But Ambitious about Autism fears this number is far higher due to unrecorded illegal exclusions. Forty-five per cent of families surveyed for the research said their child had been sent home from school or denied a full education by schools acting outside of the legal guidance. Assuming parents’ experiences are typical that would mean 26,000 children and young people with autism were unlawfully deprived of education last year.