Compelling attendance won’t result in more autistic pupils in school
The Government today published its Schools Bill with Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi announcing a 'strict' and 'non-negotiable' approach on school attendance.
The Bill will order schools across England to produce plans for addressing absenteeism. The Government also plans to issue new central guidance on the best approach to fining parents whose children are absent from school. Over 40,000 autistic pupils (31%) were persistent absentees in 2020/21.
Responding to the bill, Jolanta Lasota, Chief Executive of Ambitious about Autism, said:
“These measures are a regressive step and miss the point entirely about why many autistic pupils can’t attend school.
“Autistic young people tell us they desperately want to go to school, just like everyone else, but many can’t because of inaccessible school environments, teaching, and expectations that they be something they are not: neurotypical.
“Compelling these young people to be at a school they can’t access, without the support they need to attend, will not help them learn. Punishing their families with fines will not make the slightest difference – it will just further penalise families who already struggle to get support for their children.
“The Schools Bill must be amended to focus on the changes schools need to make - to environment, culture, and teaching practice - to enable autistic children to attend and learn. If mainstream education policy continues to treat children with SEND as an afterthought, then the Government’s SEND Review will have no impact.”
- 43,040 (30.1%) autistic pupils were persistent absentees in 2020/21.
- Exclusions of autistic children have more than doubled in the last ten years, from 2,282 in 2010 to 5,197 in 2020. Statistics: exclusions - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- 50% of parents of autistic young people reported their child had been unlawfully sent home from school or denied an education in a 2019 survey by Ambitious about Autism.