Pupil Exclusions: Autism

Department for Education written question – answered on 24th January 2022.

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Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Chair, Education Committee, Chair, Education Committee

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to tackle the practice of informal exclusions of autistic children in educational settings.

Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Chair, Education Committee, Chair, Education Committee

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans he has to help ensure that the ongoing work in his Department on behaviour management reflects the needs of autistic children and children with special educational needs.

Photo of Will Quince Will Quince The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

By their very nature, informal exclusions of any child are unlawful. This is why we already make clear in the suspension and permanent exclusion guidance that ‘informal’ or ‘unofficial’ suspensions, such as sending pupils home ‘to cool off’, are unlawful, regardless of whether they occur with the agreement of parents or carers. Further information of this guidance can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-exclusion/changes-to-the-school-exclusion-process-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak.

Any suspension of a pupil, even for short periods of time, must be in line with the relevant legislation and recorded as a suspension. The department is also clear that off rolling is unacceptable in any form and continues to work with Ofsted to identify and tackle it. The forthcoming special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) Review will also set out proposals for improving support for children with SEND in mainstream, which will look to ensure they get the right support in the right place at the right time.

All schools are required to have a behaviour policy which must be lawful, proportionate and reasonable. An initial intervention to address underlying causes of disruptive behaviour should include an assessment of whether appropriate provision is in place to support any special educational needs, including autism, or disability that a pupil may have. The department will be setting this out clearly in the consultation on the revised ‘behaviour in schools’ guidance and the ‘suspension and permanent exclusion’ guidance which will be published shortly. These will equip headteachers to create calm, orderly, safe, and supportive school environments where all pupils can thrive and reach their potential in safety and dignity and where exclusions are only ever used lawfully, and when absolutely necessary as a last resort.

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