THE number of autistic children being excluded from schools in Cheshire West and Chester has shot up, amid warnings that vulnerable students are being ‘failed’ by the education system across England.
Data from the Department for Education has revealed that 22 children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder as their primary special educational need were excluded from primary, secondary and special schools in Cheshire West and Chester in the 2015/2016 academic year – the last year for which data is available – up from nine in 2011/2012.
The figures – which were obtained through a Freedom of Information request submitted by the charity Ambitious About Autism for every local authority in England – showed there was a disparity between the rate of exclusions for autistic children and for the overall school population.
In the case of pupils with autism, 3.6% were given at least one exclusion in 2015/16, compared to just 1.7 % of the wider population.
The increase in exclusions for autistic pupils came despite the fact that the overall number of children being excluded from schools dropped over the same period, falling by 13.2%.
Exclusions of pupils with special educational needs (SEN) or an education, health and care plan (EHC) also fell over the five year period, a trend that the charity says shows autistic children are being excluded simply ‘because they are children with autism’.
It is unlawful in England for schools to exclude pupils on the basis that they have additional needs or a disability that they are unable to meet.
While Cheshire West and Chester’s schools have seen an increase in the population of autistic pupils since 2011, Ambitious About Autism argues that the figures cannot be explained by this fact alone, as the rate at which exclusions have increased outstripped the increase in autistic pupils.
According to the charity, exclusions can cause mental health problems for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, as well as having an impact on their attainment at school.