Head off-rolled autistic child with 'sympathetic smile'

Headteacher told parents of autistic child that school system was 'one-size-fits-all sausage factory' when persuading them to home educate against their wishes


Schools budgets and Ofsted "tick boxes" are more important than the plights of disabled children, says a parent who claims a headteacher off-rolled her autistic daughter against her wishes.

The headteacher, of a mainstream primary school in Devon, was described by the parent as being “sympathetic but merely paying lip service to help us out the door,” saying that her daughter struggled to cope with noise in the dining hall and needing sensory breaks outside the classroom, among other needs. 

The mother told Tes that the child’s anxiety was rising and that school “made her wish she hadn’t been born”, while her attendance was falling and she wasn’t receiving the correct support.

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When the parents were asked to sign the form (pictured below), the mother deliberately crossed out the word “elective” to make it clear this wasn’t their choice.

She said: “There is definite irony in the fact there wasn't an accurate form to complete based on the reality of our situation.

“It felt entirely inappropriate if I am honest. However, we felt we had no choice but to complete it. It was made clear it was not optional.

“At the end of the day, headteachers are concerned with meeting their budget requirements and Ofsted tick boxes and the plight and rights of a local disabled child matters little when they threaten these all important "tick boxes".

“I believe the current system is set up to create these pressures on headteachers.”

offrolling form

The Devon mother warned that some parents may be too anxious about their child's wellbeing to be able to think clearly about the forms they are being asked to sign.

She added: “I've always understood that every child has the right to a safe, appropriate and local education, but this rings a little hollow if your child is neurodivergent.

“Therefore we did not feel supported nor grateful simply because our child was offloaded with a seemingly sympathetic smile.”

“We were left with nowhere to turn. The head called the school system a 'one-size-fits-all sausage factory' and said that learning is for life, indicating her thought that home education would be best.”

Speaking on the Devon County Council’s webcast of its latest Children's Scrutiny Committee meeting, Dawn Stabb, head of education and learning, said home education should be something the parent chooses to do and that the council would take "significant action with any school if we feel it hasn’t been a voluntary move by the parents".

She said: “We have introduced a form to be completed by parents and the school together to agree the reasons for a child being electively home-educated and to make sure that by signing the form the parent and the school are both clear on the responsibilities that the parent is taking on and that this is thing that the parent is choosing to do, not because they feel their needs are not being met at the school."

A spokesperson for Devon County Council said the form had been developed with input from headteachers and that any action taken by the council would depend on each individual case.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “No parent should be forced to home educate their child. Informal or unofficial exclusions are unlawful and we have written to schools to remind them of the rules on exclusions.

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Dave Speck

Dave Speck is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @Specktator100

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