‘Change of approach needed’ to see fewer SEN pupils excluded

Children with SEN (Special Educational Needs) are being significantly over-represented in permanent and temporary exclusions from Wales’ schools, according to information obtained by the Welsh Conservatives.

Pupils with SEN made up 60% of all permanent exclusions from maintained schools in Wales – 99 out of 165 – despite only making up 23% of the school population (105,577 out of 466,508).

Of the 12 permanently excluded pupils in Powys, ten had SEN; nine out of 12 in Flintshire; and six out of eight in Denbighshire.

Rhondda Cynon Taf had the highest total of permanent exclusions (20) and the highest number of SEN pupils permanently excluded (13) too.

The Welsh Government data also shows that more than two thirds of pupils temporarily excluded from schools had SEN: 68% of those excluded for fewer than five days had special educational needs, as did 67% of those excluded for more than five days.

Rhondda Cynon Taf acquired the most fixed term exclusions of under five days – 1,870 – with 1,238 (66%) of them having SEN, while Caerphilly had the most fixed term exclusions of over five days – 110 – with 72 (65%) of them having SEN.

The Welsh Conservatives secured amendments to the Additional Learning Needs Act 2018 that meant children with additional learning needs can expect to have their rights taken into consideration by the public bodies that make decisions on the support they receive.

However, these figures suggest that this is not the case and improvements in educational provision for ALN pupils is too slow, with children potentially missing out on their education.

The figures were revealed in response to a Written Assembly Question from Welsh Conservative Angela Burns AM. She said a “change of approach was necessary”:

“These figures are worrying because they suggest that exclusions are not being used as a matter of last resort, but as the norm for children with SEN.

“There needs to be an urgent overhaul in how educational staff deal with SEN pupils who are disruptive, and realise they do not necessarily behave in that way through choice.

“Welsh Government must now work with local authorities and schools to ensure that this number starts to drop to ensure that SEN pupils don’t miss out on an education and that teachers are trained to deal with disruptive pupils and not have to use exclusions so often.”

Shadow Education Minister Suzy Davies AM commented:

“The fact that pupils with additional needs are massively over-represented in school exclusion figures is something that needs addressing immediately. I’m not convinced that the new Additional Learning Needs Code will solve the problem - and could inadvertently make it worse.

“There is growing concern that the costs of meeting all an individual’s learning needs will provide a perverse incentive against formally identifying them in the first place. If fewer pupils get early intervention for their learning needs, there’s a risk that they could develop unhappy behaviour for which they will be punished.

“There’s good practice out there, helping keep as many children in school as possible. I’m looking to the regional consortia to start sharing it now as this problem cannot continue.”