Special educational needs and disabilities pupils who do not have an education, health and care (EHC) plan are more than twice as likely to be permanently excluded from school than those who have a plan, data shows.
And they are more than five times more likely to be permanently excluded than pupils without SEND, according to Department for Education data published today.
And campaigners have highlighted funding cuts through which vital services for SEND children have been axed leaving them without adequate support.
Dame Christine Lenehan, director of the Council for Disabled Children, said: “We urgently need to identify how, where and why this discrimination in the exclusion process arises.
“The education system fails to provide many of these children with the tailored support that could enable them to remain in mainstream schools.
According to the DfE, a pupil has an EHC plan when a formal assessment has been made and a document is in place that sets out the child’s need and the extra help they should receive.
DfE figures from May this year show that, of the 1.3 million special educational needs pupils in England (around 15 per cent of total pupils), only around 270,800 have an EHC plan (while a further 1 million receive “SEN support”).
Julie McCulloch, of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "The context is government underfunding for both schools and local authority children’s services, which has made it more difficult to provide early intervention and support, and prevent behavioural issues escalating to the point of exclusion,"
Fears over SEND pupil exclusions
"There is a wider issue about the funding system for children with special educational needs, depending on whether or not they have an EHC plan. The current system often means that funding is inadequate for those without an EHC plan, and we hope that this will be addressed in the government’s SEND review.”
Today's figures show that the permanent exclusion rate for pupils with SEND with an EHC plan is 0.15, and for those without an EHC plan it is 0.32.
This compares with an overall exclusion rate of 0.06 for pupils without SEND.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school leaders’ union, said: “We’ve seen cuts in local authority services such as behaviour support teams, combined with reductions in pastoral care. Speech and language therapists for pupils with additional needs are disappearing. In addition, there are frequently delays in providing mental health support for pupils who need it."
NEU assistant general secretary Rosamund McNeil said: "It is clear that underinvestment by Government in SEND support has led to cuts to support staff in schools and this removes what students need in order to engage with what's happening in class. There will be a real challenge in September around inclusion as DfE hasn't provided enough support on SEND.”
DfE statutory guidance says heads should, as far as possible, avoid permanently excluding any pupil with an EHC plan but take action to address the underlying causes of disruptive behaviour.
A spokesperson for the DfE said its forthcoming SEND Review would “actively consider” how to support children and young people earlier before issues escalate, adding: “We are also increasing high needs funding for local authorities by £780 million this year and a further £730 million next year, boosting the total budget to more than £8 billion in in 2021-22, helping schools to support children and young people with the most complex SEND.”
The exclusion rate is calculated as the total number of fixed-period exclusions, divided by the total number of pupils (x100).