(UK) Ed secretary warns: "1,000's of [SPED] children... missing from official education statistics"

July 6, 2018, Independent: Education secretary Damian Hinds warns schools to stop excluding special needs pupils to improve league table rankings The education secretary has spoken out against the practice of "off-rolling", which sees schools exclude children with special educational needs through the back door – often in order to improve their league table position. Damian Hinds made the intervention after hearing what he said were “many stories” of schools using informal exclusions to get rid of pupils with educational needs and disabilities (SEND), and prevent them from applying for places through “pre-emptive exclusions”. … There has been a “movement” of children with special needs out of mainstream schools – with some entering specialist or alternative provision, and others being home schooled, Mr Hinds added. … A report last month found that thousands of children in England are missing from official education statistics after being removed from schools before they sit their GCSEs. … The government has launched a review into permanent exclusions - after the numbers have risen by 44 per cent since 2012/13 - which will investigate why SEND children are more likely to be excluded. But some parents are already taking the matter into their own hands and are legally challenging the schools’ right to exclude pupils over behaviour linked to their disability. A Derbyshire family of a 13-year-old boy with autism is hoping to overturn a rule that allows children to lose protection from discrimination under equality laws because their challenging behaviour is said to be ‘a tendency to physically abuse’ - even if it is a direct result of the disability. If the case - which was heard by the Upper Tribunal this week - is successful, the numbers of children with special educational needs who are excluded for poor behaviour could reduce, lawyers say…. Council leaders and education unions have been calling on the government to urgently boost funding to ensure they can place pupils with special needs and provide the right support. Addressing the wide gap in outcomes for children with SEND and their peers in his speech, Mr Hinds said he recognised that councils and schools were “feeling the pressure when it comes to budgets.” “While we had record investment in the education for children with complex SEND at £6bn this year, it’s clear that budgets are under pressure. And, frankly, this is difficult - I can’t say today that I have all the answers. But I am listening to your concerns,” he said.