Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Children with SEN more likely to be excluded from school, report finds

Children with special educational needs (SEN) are 9 times more likely to be permanently excluded from school than the general pupil population, an official report has found.

A national Inquiry by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner highlighted a high correlation between a pupil’s background (gender, ethnicity and whether or not they have a SEN) and the likelihood of permanent exclusion.

The Inquiry report, They Go The Extra Mile, also found that boys and those from Black Caribbean and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities continue to be far more likely to be permanently excluded from school than other pupils.

The Inquiry also found that some schools are poor at addressing the cultural needs of pupils, and teacher training does not always prepare newly-qualified teachers to manage the behaviour of a pupil population with a wide range of needs.

The report makes a series of recommendations to help reduce the numbers of children from these groups being excluded. These include:
• All school-based professionals should have a clear route of accountability so they can draw problems to the attention of the relevant external body, without fear of reprisals, if they consider that a school is acting in a discriminatory manner
• Teacher training to include a requirement to prepare all newly qualified teachers to teach children with the full range of SEN they should expect to find in a mainstream state-funded school. Also, all trainee teachers should also study child development and socio-psychological matters such as attachment theory.

Maggie Atkinson, Children’s Commissioner for England, said: “Permanently excluding a child from school can have a life-long impact on them and also a huge social cost: excluded children are far more likely to get into trouble with the law and less likely to gain employment.

“We can reduce the number of young people who are permanently excluded by learning lessons from schools that are good at managing the needs of their pupils.

“The single most important thing that a school can do is realise that including all children in the life of the school is part of their core purpose.  It is not, as some schools see it, an “optional extra”. The best schools realise this and go the extra mile to do it. They tell us that this makes the school a better learning environment for everybody.

“We agree with the Government that schools should set strong behavioural and academic expectations for each and every child. Children who need support to meet these expectations should be given it. They should not be written off because of their background.”

Elizabeth Archer, national strategic lead for children and young people at Mencap, said: “Children and young people with a learning disability face huge inequalities and discrimination in the education system. Mencap hears from many families who feel that their child has been treated unfairly by their school, and who face a real battle to have their child’s needs recognised. The high number of exclusions reflects this.

“Children with a learning disability are not second class pupils who can be shunted aside as an inconvenience. We are shocked to see that they are 9 times more likely to be permanently excluded from school than their classmates.

“Schools have an obligation to meet the needs of all pupils, regardless of their academic ability, and they need to do much more to promote inclusion. It is vital that schools reduce exclusions of pupils with a learning disability.

“If issues are picked up early and correct steps are taken, this can help to ensure that a situation does not escalate in future. We fully support the recommendations of the Children’s Commissioner.”

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