Schools found to be excluding increasing number of autistic children

Joe Lepper
Thursday, June 7, 2018

The number of children with autism being excluded has risen dramatically in recent years, government data has shown, with campaigners claiming they are being "shut out" of schools.

Children with autism account for just over one per cent of the school population, but make up 2.5 per cent of all exclusions. Picture: Ambitious about Autism
Children with autism account for just over one per cent of the school population, but make up 2.5 per cent of all exclusions. Picture: Ambitious about Autism

Department for Education statistics obtained via a Freedom of Information request by the charity Ambitious about Autism, show a 59 per cent rise in exclusions among this group of children, from 2,831 in 2011/12 to 4,485 in 2015/16.

Over the same period, which covers the most up-to-date information available for England, exclusions for all pupils rose by just four per cent.

Ambitious about Autism said that although there has been an increase children with autism in schools, the exclusion rate remains disproportionate to their number. Children with autism account for just over one per cent of the school population, but make up 2.5 per cent of all exclusions.

The most significant rise in exclusions of autistic children was found to be in the North West, where the number of excluded children with autism doubled between 2011/12 and 2015/16, compared with a rise of six per cent in the overall number of exclusions in the region.

Dramatic rises in children with autism being sent home from school have also been recorded in areas where overall the number of exclusions has fallen.

In the South East there was a seven per cent fall in the overall number of children being excluded between 2011/12 and 2015/16, but a 44 per cent rise in exclusions of children with autism over the same period.

Similarly in the East Midlands, where overall exclusions fell by one per cent, there was a 47 per cent increase in children with autism being sent home.

Ambitious about Autism has submitted its findings to the government's school exclusion review, which launched in March and is led by former children's minister Edward Timpson, who lost his seat at the June 2017 general election. 

The charity is urging the review to investigate why there has been such a dramatic rise in the number of autistic children being excluded.

It also wants Ofsted to investigate and take action against potential unlawful exclusions.

Other recommendations include ensuring all school staff, including teaching assistants, undertake autism awareness training.

Ambitious about Autism said it wants the government to consider incentivising support for children with autism, through measures such as making schools responsible financially and academically for children they exclude.

"Schools are shutting out thousands of children with autism," said Ambitious about Autism chief executive Jolanta Lasota.

"The impact of these exclusions can't be underestimated - not only do children fall behind academically, but the isolation from their peers creates deep unhappiness, social anxiety and mental health problems.  

"Our evidence clearly shows children with autism are disproportionately at risk from exclusion, compared to other pupils. The new school exclusions review must get to the bottom of what is happening to these children - who have been failed for too long by our education system." 

Children's minister Nadhim Zahawi said: "We want every child with autism to have the support they need to unlock their potential, no matter what challenges they face.

"Thanks to this government's reforms, more children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities are getting the support they need at school and college, and the number who move on to training schemes, apprenticeships or supported internships is increasing.

"We know more needs to be done to make sure that vulnerable children are not unfairly treated. We have launched a review of school exclusions, led by Edward Timpson.

"The review aims to explore how schools use exclusions overall and in particular why some groups of children - such as children with autism - are more likely to be excluded than others."

CYP Now Digital membership

  • Latest digital issues
  • Latest online articles
  • Archive of more than 60,000 articles
  • Unlimited access to our online Topic Hubs
  • Archive of digital editions
  • Themed supplements

From £15 / month


CYP Now Magazine

  • Latest print issues
  • Themed supplements

From £12 / month