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(UK) Suffolk County: Big percent of kids expelled from school have special needs

Oct 14, 2020, East Anglian Times: School exclusions reviewed as pupils with special educational needs ‘overwhelmingly’ affected https://www.eadt.co.uk/news/nearly-half-of-excluded-pupils-have-special-educational-needs-1-6882281 Almost half of children permanently excluded from school during 2019-20 had special or additional educational needs, new figures have revealed. The news comes as Suffolk County Council undertakes an urgent “detailed review” into school exclusions in the county - saying it takes the issue very seriously”. The statistics, released in response to a Freedom of Information request, show that 125 pupils were excluded over the full school year, and were described as “very sad reading” by a parents’ support group. Out of these, 56 pupils (44%) had special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) or an education health and care plan (EHCP), outlining additional measures needed for their learning. And the proportion was even higher for primary schools, where 29 of the 33 children excluded had either SEND or an EHCP - amounting to more than 80%. Mary Evans, cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills at Suffolk County Council, said: “School exclusions in Suffolk are under investigation because we take this issue very seriously…. The council announced in July it had launched the urgent investigation, after it was revealed that numbers of children permanently excluded had doubled in the first two terms of 2019-20, compared to the same period last year. The revelation came in a meeting of the Suffolk Schools’ Forum in June, with subsequent data showing that for the first two terms of this academic year there had been 114 permanent exclusions compared to 56 last year…. Another issue which has caused concern is schools pressuring parents to home-educate children. It was said in data released last year there were eight cases in Suffolk during 2017/18 where pupils were ‘off-rolled’. This means schools deliberately encouraging parents to take their child out of school because they are disruptive or bring down a school’s overall results. Mrs Evans said: “We are aware that nationally there have been cases where families have been encouraged to remove a child from the school. “I am pleased that this issue was picked up by Ofsted and became a focus for their inspection work prior to the national lockdown in March…. “For some time, also, the threat to parents of being fined when their child has low attendance, for many reasons including unmet SEND needs, has continued to see children off-rolled through lack of options.” Jack Abbott, county Labour spokesperson for children’s services, education and skills, said: “For years I have warned about the severe educational and social consequences of exclusions, with the rate of fixed-term exclusions for primary school children in Suffolk among the highest in the country….