East Lothian schools excluded one quarter of pupils with additional support needs

One in four children with additional support needs have been ‘informally excluded’ from school, with nearly half of them sent home nearly a dozen times, according to a new survey.

Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 4:45 pm
East Lothian Council HQ at John Muir House

Parents who took part in the survey by support group Inclusion in East Lothian Education said that they had been asked to collect their children early or keep them home during particular activities or events.

Preventing a child from attending school without a formal exclusion is illegal.

However, some of the parents said that not only had it happened to them but in several cases their child had been ‘informally excluded’ up to 11 times.

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The Facebook support group was set up late last year, as East Lothian Council launched a public consultation on its latest draft education policy on inclusion.

It now has more than 130 members and carried out a survey of them to establish the experiences of parents.

The survey, which 88 members took part in, found that while 14 parents had experienced their child being formally excluded from school, 22 of them had been asked to ‘informally exclude’ their child, with 10 saying it happened more than 11 times.

It also found 15 parents reporting that their child was put on a part-time timetable against their wishes.

The majority of parents (73) said that their child had mental health issues which had been exacerbated by their school experience and more than half of parents reported that their ability to hold down employment had been affected by having a child with additional support needs.

Last month, a report to East Lothian Council warned that schools were at high risk of failing children with additional support needs because of a lack of capacity to support them in the county.

One mother in the group said that her child travelled 40 miles to attend a school which could offer him the support he needed – paid for at an “eye-watering” cost by the council.

The report to the council’s audit and governance committee last month warned that demand for support outstripped the capacity, leading to a risk of “unmet client need and risk to client safety and independence, potentially generating reputational risk for the council, as well as failing to meet statutory responsibilities”.

A spokesperson for the support group said that there was a concern among some parents that the informal exclusions they experienced were more about the school being unable to offer their child support because of staffing issues rather than concerns for the child or any incident regarding behaviour.

The council’s current inclusion policy, which was adopted two years ago, warns that “exclusion from school of a learner other than in conformity with the terms of the 1975 regulations is illegal”.

It adds: “In all situations where learners are sent home for periods of time to ‘cool off’ or for longer-term assessments and planning, they must be formally excluded.

“Children and young people must not be sent home from school for reasons relating to behaviour or an incident without being excluded.”

The group is calling for headteachers to receive additional training to support children with additional support needs and listen to the concerns of parents.

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