Has Your Autistic Child Been Illegally Excluded From School?


A study by charity Ambitious about Autism has found that as many as 28,000 children with autism are being illegally excluded from school because schools do not have the skills to support them.

Empty School Desks

What Makes an Exclusion From School Illegal?

The study concentrated on a sample of 500 families, 1,000 school staff and 92 local authorities producing wide-ranging results. It found that up to 4 in 10 children with autism are being subjected to informal exclusions.

This is unlawful. Informal exclusions occur when a school prevents a pupil from attending without it being officially recorded as an exclusion.

The study reports incidences of:

  • Parents being asked to collect their child early
  • Parents being asked to not bring their child to school at all
  • Autistic children missing out on school trips
  • Asking children to attend lessons part time

Parents have been forced to take time off work to look after their children, despite provisions being in place for them to be at school. This is putting an additional and unwarranted strain on families that already have to deal with the challenges faced by those living with autism.

Far from promoting an inclusive school environment, such practices isolate autistic children from their classmates and puts additional strain on learning.

Over of half of parents in the survey stated that they had kept their child out of school for fear that the school was unable to support their child's needs.

As a result of these informal exclusions and wasted opportunities in education and support, the price to the government is an astonishing £27 billion. Jolanta Lasota, Chief Executive of Ambitious about Autism commented that: "Children are being left out and left behind."

Raising Awareness of Autism

In response to the study, Ambitious About Autism has launched a campaign called Ruled Out: Why are children with autism missing out on school?

It will concentrate on the topics of exclusion and the difficulties parents face trying to find a school for their child that can provide them with support and part-time timetables.

Providing autistic children with the support and provisions they need in school is vital to their development and learning. Ambitious About Autism want to make this a priority.

Simpson Millar assists parents of autistic children who have continued difficulties with their child's school, providing legal advice to get a solution to any problems they may be having.

Imogen Jolley, a Solicitor specialising in Education and Community Care law comments:

“Exclusion should only be used as a last resort when the school have no other option available to them. This should be a rare occurrence, but unfortunately the findings highlighted by Ambitious About Autism do not reflect this.

When a child is excluded, there is a process that must be followed. An exclusion should always be recorded and a parent should be afforded the right to challenge that decision.”

What Can I Do if My Child Was Informally Excluded?

Governmental guidelines say that the practice of informal exclusion is illegal – especially when it is being used to deprive autistic children of time in the classroom. They also say that it should not be carried out by any school, but this is not stopping it from happening.

Unlawful exclusions can be challenged.

Exclusion is usually a means and proof that a child's needs are not being met – if they have a statement of special educational needs, this may require amendment, if they have no statement they may be in need of one.

If you have a child with special educational needs who has been excluded, you may need advice or support. Knowing what to do next is often a hard decision to make but there is help out there for you and your child.

In particular, if your child has been excluded unlawfully, is out of education, or not receiving the provision set out in their statement, a legal challenge by way of judicial review may be available to enable your rights to be asserted. Legal aid may also be available depending upon your case.

How Can Simpson Millar Help You?

If your child has autism and has been excluded, it is vitally important to get the legal advice to support your case. Simpson Millar has handled many cases where unlawful exclusion has limited an autistic child's learning – and we can help you too.

If you want jargon-free advice and an accessible team of solicitors, just give us a call on 0345 357 9850 or alternatively fill out our enquiry form and we'll contact you at a time convenient to you.

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