HC Deb 07 September 2004 vol 424 cc974-5W
Mr. Wiggin

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what research he has commissioned regarding the school exclusion rates of(a) autistic students and (b) students with Asperger's Syndrome; and if he will make a statement on his policy on whether autistic students should remain in mainstream schools. [186943]

Margaret Hodge

The statistics published by the Department do not record the types of special educational need (SEN), such as autism and Asperger's syndrome, which excluded pupils with SEN have. The most recent provisional statistics, for 2002/03, do show that children with SEN, both those with and without statements of SEN, account for two-thirds of permanent exclusions and that children with SEN were nine times more likely to be permanently excluded than those without SEN. As part of the SEN strategy "Removing Barriers to Achievement", published in February, we are carrying out research into exclusions and children with SEN, including those with autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs), and we will act on its findings.

Research by the National Autistic Society in 2000 suggested that children with ASDs, including Asperger's syndrome, were far more likely to be excluded than their peers. The Society is represented on our Autism Working Group which produced Good Practice Guidance on ASDs in 2002. This guidance aims to raise awareness of the disorders and to give good practice pointers to schools, local education authorities and others to help develop and audit their autism provision. It is available to assist schools make the reasonable adjustments to their policies and practice with respect to children with ASDs required by the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, as amended by the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001, which they need to consider when meeting their duty not to discriminate against disabled pupils, without justification, by excluding them because of behaviour caused by their disability.

Children with autism display a range of strengths and difficulties of differing levels of severity and complexity. Those with SEN statements should be placed in a setting where their profile of needs can be met. The Good Practice Guidance recommends that LEAs, either singly or in regional groupings, should develop a range of provision in mainstream, special and specialist schools so that children with statements can be placed appropriately with the placement being monitored and changed as necessary.

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