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Disabled children facing exclusion, warns charity

26/02/2013 Joanna
Some schools often send children with special educational needs (SEN) home early as they lack the staff to support them, according to a new survey that highlights the importance of special needs teachers.

The poll conducted by Contact a Family revealed that over 400 respondents had at some stage had to collect their child with SEN early from school or else had been told to keep them at home without receiving an official exclusion letter.

Moreover, 15 per cent of respondents said this happened once a month, 22 per cent that it occurred on a weekly basis and 15 per cent that it happened daily.

The importance of having SEN teachers in place was underlined by the fact that 53 per cent of these exclusions occurred because the school did not have sufficient staff available to support the child.

In 70 per cent of cases, the school suggested that the exclusion was for the child's 'own good' as they were having a bad day, while 62 per cent said the child needed to 'cool off' after an incident.

When asked about the impact of all this on the child, 67 per cent of families affected said it made the child upset, 55 per cent that the child felt left out of friendship groups and 53 per cent that the child was falling behind with schoolwork.

Srabani Sen, chief executive of Contact a Family, commented: "If non-disabled pupils were sent home because there were not enough school staff, there would be uproar.

"We have to ask why is it happening so regularly when it comes to disabled children and what can be done to tackle it?"

The charity therefore advised schools to ensure that, when exclusions are necessary, they follow statutory procedure to ensure decisions are lawful, reasonable and fair, adding that Ofsted has a role to play in enforcing this.

It also called on schools and those in teaching jobs to liaise with parents to understand children's conditions and disabilities and their extra support needs and warned that, where a condition affects behaviour, schools need to take early action to address the underlying causes of this.

Commenting on Contact a Family's survey, children's commissioner for England Maggie Atkinson said they echoed the findings of her own office's recent inquiry into exclusions, which indicated that children with disabilities were more likely to be excluded than children without disabilities.

Posted by Charlotte MichaelsADNFCR-2164-ID-801546681-ADNFCR
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