The number of children with autism excluded from Lincolnshire schools has risen by more than 20% over a five-year period, say campaigners.
Data obtained from the Department of Education on pupils with autism and exclusions via a Freedom of Information request was collated by Ambitious about Autism.
However, Lincolnshire County Council believes the data could be “misleading”, arguing it is impossible to prove the study’s accuracy.
According to the data, the number of children with autism in Lincolnshire schools in 2011/12 was 1,222, with 72 excluded in that period.
In 2015/16 these numbers rose to 1,473 and 89 respectively, although the increase in exclusions could be related to their being higher pupil numbers.
This means there has been a 21% rise in the number of children with autism in Lincolnshire schools since 2011/12 and a 24% increase in the number of excluded children with autism.
By comparison, the rise in all exclusions in the county since 2011/12 was 11.1%.
Nationally there has been a big rise in the number of children with autism being excluded from schools, Ambitious about Autism said.
Children with autism account for just over 1% of the school population, but make up 2.5% of all exclusions.
Chief Executive of Ambitious about Autism, Jolanta Lasota, said: “Schools are shutting out thousands of children with autism. The impact of these exclusions can’t be underestimated – not only do children fall behind academically, but the isolation from their peers creates deep unhappiness, social anxiety and mental health problems.
“Our evidence clearly shows children with autism are disproportionately at risk from exclusion, compared to other pupils. The new School Exclusions review must get to the bottom of what is happening to these children – who have been failed for too long by our education system.”
Council questions the data
Service Manager for Inclusion at Lincolnshire County Council, Mary Meredith, said: “Lincolnshire is bucking the national trend of rising permanent exclusions. In fact for pupils with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP) our numbers have fallen from 16 in 2015/16 to 9 this year.
“We welcome the national focus on rising exclusions, especially of the most vulnerable children, and continue to work with our schools to avoid these.
“However we would question these figures as they don’t differentiate between permanent and fixed term exclusions which makes it impossible to verify.
“They are also two years old and do not reflect the significant amount of work being undertaken by the county council in partnership with schools to reduce exclusions since 2015/16.
“It’s impossible to confirm the accuracy of this data as it refers only to children who have EHCPs. There are thousands of children with autism in Lincolnshire schools without EHCPS because their needs are met without the need for one.”