Ofsted: 'Alarming' number of schools accused of unofficially excluding SEND pupils

Today's Ofsted report also says that pupils with SEND have a much poorer experience of education than their peers

Adi Bloom

News article image

An “alarming number” of parents have said that their schools are using unofficial exclusions as a means of dealing with pupils with special educational needs and disability (SEND), a new Ofsted report says.

These illegal exclusions have been used as a behaviour-management policy, in addition to fixed-term exclusions, the schools inspectorate has said.

In its report into local-area SEND inspections, published today, Ofsted said: “School leaders had used unofficial exclusions too readily to cope with children and young people who have SEND.

"Across nearly all local areas inspected, an alarming number of parents said that some school leaders asked them to take their children home… It is illegal.”

SEND help

Inspectors also reported that the pupils were excluded, absent or missing from school much more frequently than their peers. Even in areas where the proper code of practice was well-implemented, school leaders did not have appropriate plans to deal with the levels of exclusions for these pupils, Ofsted said.

In fact, inspectors concluded that, overall, pupils with SEND “had a much poorer experience of the education system than their peers.

“Too often, local-area leaders were not clear how their actions were improving outcomes for those children and young people identified as needing SEND support.”


Other concerns raised in the Ofsted report include:

  • Many pupils identified as having social, emotional and mental-health needs were not able to access the support they required. While many areas had seen a rise in referrals to child and adolescent mental health services, these services regularly rejected referrals because they did not meet their thresholds.
  • Too few school staff had the necessary knowledge and skills to identify when pupils who were struggling in class needed further assessments.
  • Poor joint-working arrangements between education, health and care departments meant that authorities did not always have a holistic picture of pupils’ needs.
  • Parents reported that an education, health and care plan was like a “golden ticket to better outcomes”, even when their children’s needs did not require such a plan.
  • Therapy services were often too overstretched to deliver the services needed in local areas.
  • In nearly all areas inspected, there was a degree of parental dissatisfaction. Parents were not always convinced that their children were receiving the full provision that they should.
  • Area leaders often did not have a good enough understanding of what high-quality outcomes should look like for SEND pupils.

Want to keep up with the latest education news and opinion? Follow Tes on Twitter and Instagram, and like Tes on Facebook

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Adi Bloom

Adi Bloom is Tes comment editor

Latest stories

Coronavirus: Partial vaccination of ASN staff 'is putting pupils at risk'

Gillick competence: What schools need to know

You may not have heard of the ‘Gillick competence’ but it may well be used by pupils to accept or reject the Covid vaccine – here’s what schools should be aware of
Andrew Banks 23 Sep 2021