Some parents are being asked to educate their disabled children at home because their schools claim they cannot meet their needs, the education watchdog’s annual report has warned.
Ofsted’s chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, said in her report that the proportion of disabled children needing support who had been excluded from their schools was “typically high”.
She said that some disabled children and young people who need support were having “a very poor experience of the education system”.
She said that some parents “have been pressured to keep their children at home because leaders say they can’t meet their needs. This is unacceptable.”
Her report also says that there are now about 1,000 state-funded special schools, three-quarters of which are maintained by local authorities, while a quarter are academies.
And it says that the proportion of pupils with a statement of special educational needs or a new education, health and care plan attending a state-funded special school, rather than mainstream provision, has risen from 40 per cent in 2010 – when the new coalition government pledged to “remove the bias towards inclusion” – to 45 per cent of pupils.
Tara Flood, director of The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE), said: “The government is in complete denial that there is a crisis in the support that disabled children and young people should be receiving.
“The alarm bells are ringing everywhere apart from in the Department for Education.”
She said ALLFIE had heard from parents who had been told to educate their disabled children at home.
She said: “It highlights what ALLFIE has been raising the alarm about for a long time now, that disabled children and young people are being forced out of mainstream education by a tightening of the [Ofsted] inspection regime and a narrowing down of what is considered to be educational success.”
She said that the increasing Ofsted focus on academic attainment and discipline “gives a reason for schools to remove children considered to have challenging behaviour”.
As a result, there had been a rise in the number of disabled children being viewed by schools as having challenging behaviour, with that being used as a reason to exclude them and avoid “putting [the school’s] academic results into jeopardy”.
She said: “We have noticed in the last two years the real increase in parents being told that their [disabled] children are no longer welcome in school and in college.”
She said there was also an increasing “disconnection” between schools and local education authority support services for disabled children, because of the education reforms brought in by the government.
Flood said: “The real worry for us is not only the government’s denial that there is a crisis in education for disabled children and young people but that their response to that is to build more segregated provision rather than taking a human rights approach and building the capacity for inclusion.”
And she said there was also anecdotal evidence of children being excluded from school while on the waiting-list for support from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
This has led to children being denied any kind of education “for months and months” while waiting for an assessment.
She said the report in August by the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities on the UK’s progress in implementing the UN disability convention “set out clear recommendations for the UK government in terms of what it needs to do to make fundamental changes to the education system”.
The report was highly critical of the UK government’s approach to inclusive education, and the “persistence of a dual education system” that segregates increasing numbers of disabled children in special schools.
It called instead for a “coherent strategy” on “increasing and improving inclusive education”, which would include raising awareness of – and support for – inclusive education among parents of disabled children.
Picture: Representatives of UK disabled people’s organisations at the UN in Geneva in August