More than a third (34%) of parents responding to a survey on the experiences of autistic children who have missed school said that their children had been unlawfully excluded in the last two years – with almost a quarter (22%) saying this happened multiple times a week. Third Force News reports.
An unlawful exclusion is when a school sends a child home without using the formal exclusion process, meaning monitoring and support systems are bypassed. Scottish Government guidance is clear on its position that unlawful exclusions should not happen – yet research by Children in Scotland, the National Autistic Society Scotland and Scottish Autism shows that they happen regularly to autistic children across Scotland.
Conducted as part of the charities’ Not Included, Not Engaged, Not Involved report, the survey of 1,417 parents and carers of autistic children also revealed that 13% of respondents said their child had been formally excluded from school, with 72% feeling that school staff having a better understanding of their child’s autism could have helped their child.
Pamela’s son, Kyle, is autistic. She said: “Kyle is only six but he’s already at his second school. The first school treated him like he had an infectious disease. He was left in a room by himself all day, away from the lesson and his friends. One day he came home and told me he was meant to be alone. It was heart breaking.”
Amy Woodhouse, head of policy, projects and participation at Children in Scotland, said: “Parents of autistic children in every local authority in Scotland shared the impact on their children of missing out on their education. This is not an isolated problem as it is occurring across the country, to children of all ages, in both special and mainstream provision. Autistic children are not receiving the education they deserve and are entitled to.”
Carla Manini Rowden, education rights manager at the National Autistic Society Scotland, said: “Sending a child home without formally excluding them is against the law, yet it keeps happening to the families we support and it is having a devastating impact on the education and wellbeing of children. We believe that Scottish Government must take action now and work with local authorities and education professionals to end the use of unlawful exclusions.”
The Not Included, Not Engaged Not Involved report sets out nine calls to action that the charities believe would make significant improvements to the educational experiences of autistic children.
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