maggieatkinsonA report of more than 400 parents of children with a range of learning and/or physical disabilities has found almost a quarter are routinely illegally excluded from school.

The Contact a Family report, Falling Through the Net, suggests that this can have a devastating impact on their education and mental health.

It comes on the back of last year's school exclusions inquiry from the Office of the Children's Commissioner for England, which discovered disabled children are disproportionately more likely to be excluded than children without disabilities.

Commissioner Maggie Atkinson (pictured) added: "All children, regardless of their circumstances, are entitled to a good education which will help them shape their own futures. It is vital that children are not discriminated against in the education system."

Of the parents in the Contact a Family survey more than 60% had a child with an autism spectrum disorder, 30% had a moderate-severe learning disability and 20% had speech, language and communication needs. The children attended a range of different schools, including mainstream, academies, private schools and special schools.

Other findings included:
• 15% of children with a range of learning and/or physical disabilities are excluded from school every day
• More than half (53%) of families have been asked to collect their child during the school day because there are not enough staff available to support them
• 56% of families have been told by the school that their child can't take part in a class activity or trip because it is unsuitable for them.

Srabani Sen, chief executive of Contact a Family, said: “Illegal exclusions undermine the Government's intentions set out in the Children and Families Bill of disabled children of achieving their full potential. Children with additional needs up and down the country are missing out on a good education and the opportunity to form friendships because of illegal exclusions.

"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 have recommended that all schools and teachers should work closely with parents to understand a child's condition or disability and their extra support needs while encouraging Ofsted to play a more active role in identifying unlawful practice in the course of an inspection.

However, John Connolly, principal policy adviser to the Children's Commissioner, has warned against purely focusing on those identified as most at risk.

"Groups identified as being at particular risk are indeed more likely than average to be missing from education; however, we consider it may not be advisable to include such a list in statutory guidance," he explained.

"There is a risk that it will encourage schools and local authorities to view these groups as the only ones requiring particular attention. In fact, numerous groups of young people are disproportionately likely to be missing education, in addition to those identified such as looked after children and those with long term mental health needs."

Click here to read our blog Inclusivity and Equality. For more on the Contact a Family report go to

Posted 20/02/2013 by