'Secret' exclusions of ASD children

16th February 2007 at 00:00
Following on from the Scottish Executive's release of the latest exclusion statistics, I would like to draw attention to the unwritten, scandalous and illegal policy of "secret" school exclusions.

This practice is widespread and enables local authorities to distort the true picture of educational provision for disabled children, particularly those with an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), and serves as a considerable financial disincentive to the provision of appropriate education for disabled children.

These exclusions do not feature in statistics and, from our own extensive contacts, it is a practice that is widespread. In making inappropriate educational provision that is bound to fail, education authorities are deliberately breaking the law to avoid paying for the specialist education that is needed by children with ASD.

Provision for such pupils is patchy, and there appears to be no effort by the Scottish Executive to rectify this. For example, there is only one base in a secondary school for children with ASD in the whole of Ayrshire (currently with eight pupils), and 148 is the estimated number of children with autistic spectrum disorder throughout the three Ayrshire authorities at secondary level.

Six years ago, South Ayrshire authority discussed setting up a secondary base for pupils with autism. Nothing has materialised, and the council has publicly refused to indicate any intention to set up such a base. In addition, numbers of children with ASD in special schools in this authority are low. It is understood that provision in special schools is entirely unsuitable for many pupils with autistic spectrum disorder, so it is clear that there is a major problem.

I do not know how many other authorities have a secondary base for pupils with ASD, but this deserves investigation. How long is is going to take for the Scottish Executive to learn some basic arithmetic regarding educational provision for children with autistic spectrum disorder?

Fiona Sinclair

convener, Autism Rights, Dunure, Ayrshire

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