Children with special educational needs excluded three times more than others, data shows
PUBLISHED: 07:30 07 February 2020 | UPDATED: 07:54 07 February 2020
Youngsters with special educational needs in Suffolk are being excluded three time more than their peers, new data revealed.
And the statistics show that number rises to nearly one in four pupils who have education health and care plans (EHCPs).
Data published by Suffolk County Council ahead of next week's scrutiny committee revealed that in the 2018/19 financial year, there were 5,129 fixed term exclusions - 5.5% of all pupils.
But there were 1,660 pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) who were excluded - a percentage of 17.4% of all SEND pupils, while 571 pupils with EHCPs were excluded - 23.09%.
More than a third of pupils with EHCPs in secondary schools had been excluded at least once, according to the data.
But crucially, for youngsters with EHCPs taught in special schools, that figure was 5.21% - in line with the percentage seen for all pupils.
The figures have confirmed fears by Parents and Carers Together (PACT) - an organisation which supports parents and carers, that children are being excluded when schools are unable to meet their needs.
Bec Jasper, from PACT, said: "We are sadly not surprised to see the contrasting numbers of exclusions for those on the SEND register or having EHCPs being so much higher than the average.
"We are consistently having conversations with parents/carers from across Suffolk who tell us of schools failing to provide resources or support specified in EHCPs or that schools are unable or unwilling to take on board some reasonable adjustments which could make a big difference to a child's ability to cope and feel supported in school.
"These issues can often give rise to, what some may see as, behavioural issues or disruption but which are often a child trying to communicate an unmet need but can be punished.
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"Further to this we are also aware of the off-rolling issue to maintain good results and/or save money on resources for those needing extra help, support, and identification of possible issues."
Data published by the council at the end of 2018 revealed demand for SEND places was soaring by around 18%, and put in place a major £45million programme to build three new special schools and develop 36 specialist units attached to mainstream schools.
Those measures should develop well over 800 new places for children with SEND, but Suffolk County Council's Labour spokesman for education, councillor Jack Abbott, raised fears over the numbers of youngsters who had undiagnosed or unmet needs.
He said: "These appalling figures lay bare the devastating situation that has developed in Suffolk's education system, particularly in our primary schools.
"The reality is that, if a child has SEND, they are far more likely to be excluded than their peers.
"Worryingly these numbers may not even tell the whole story - these figures don't include other forms of exclusion and we know there are many more unidentified children with SEND.
"This situation isn't simply related to 'behaviour', but a consequence of what happens when the needs of children with SEND and SEMH [social, emotional and mental health needs] are not met.
"Schools are not receiving the resources they require. Children and young people are not being provided with the tailored, early intervention. Families are being driven to breaking point by a complex and unforgiving system."
Councillor Mary Evans, Conservative cabinet member for education said: "These figures do cause us concern. We take them seriously as we are committed to ensuring that all young people in Suffolk thrive in education.
"The numbers of exclusions are shared with the Regional Schools Commissioner's team, who have oversight of academies in Suffolk.
"Local authority officers are committed to working with schools to help and challenge the way they support children and young people with SEND to reduce the rates of exclusion
"We are focused on providing the best education for children and young people with SEND. Improvements are being made to our assessment process and we are increasing the number of specialist school places across the county."