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Monday 16 July 2018

Exclusions of pupils with autism rocket in England, new data shows

Latest figures show nearly 4,500 pupils with autism were excluded in one year – a 60% increase since 2011. Children with autism are the most at risk group of all special education needs pupils with Education Health and Care plans (EHC) to face being sent home from school.   

The charity Ambitious about Autism is calling for urgent action to find out why children with autism are disproportionately at risk.   

Since 2011, the overall number of pupils excluded from school has risen by 4% with some English regions, such as the South East, seeing a drop.  But at the same time exclusions of children with autism have increased by at least 44% in every part of England.  

The North West has had the biggest increase – with cases doubling since 2011. 


Region Number of children with autism excluded in 2022/12 Number of children with autism excluded in 2015/16 % rise in exclusions of pupils with autism since 2011 % rise in exclusions for all pupils since 2011
North West 245 490 100 6
East of England 330 535 62 0
South West 290 470 62 13
London 325 525 61 1
West Midlands 380 610 60 5
Yorkshire and The Humber 240 370 54 19
East Midlands 295 435 47 -1
North East 86 125 45 7
South east 640 925 44 -7
England total 2,831 4,485 59 4


Although there has been an increase children with autism in schools, the exclusion rate remains disproportionate to their number. Children with autism account for just over 1% of the school population, but make up 2.5% of all exclusions. 

Ambitious about Autism has submitted its findings to the School Exclusions Review, an independent review, commissioned by the Government and led by former children’s minister Edward Timpson. 

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.” 

Ambitious about Autism supports several recommendations to tackle the growing rise in autism exclusions. These include: 

  • Ensuring Ofsted has the power to thoroughly investigate unlawful exclusions and take appropriate action.  
  • All school staff - including teaching assistants and support staff – should be given training in understanding autism. 
  • Strengthening the accountability of the system to ensure schools and local authorities are incentivised to support children with autism.  For example, examining whether to make schools financially and academically responsible for children they exclude or place in alternative provision.   


To mark its 21st anniversary, Ambitious about Autism has launched We Need an Education campaign to draw attention to the thousands of children with autism being denied an education.