A cross-party group of Welsh Assembly members is warning there is not enough support for the most vulnerable students and have raised their concerns with Wales’s education minister Leighton Andrews.
The latest figures show a rise in exclusions of pupils with special needs from 4,275 in 2003 to 9,015 in 2011. Over the same period, the number of excluded pupils without special needs fell by approximately 13 per cent from 10,842 to 9,441.
Mark Isherwood, chair of the Assembly’s Cross-Party Autism Group, said: “There are concerns that while, overall, exclusions are falling, which is good news, and the number of Statements for additional learning needs have also been falling – which could be good or bad news – the number of exclusions of children with special or additional learning needs has been rising significantly.”
The figures reveal the rise in exclusions has been worst among pupils with school-based action plans for their special needs rather than local authority statements.
When statemented by a local authority pupils can get additional resources like one-to-one class assistants because councils have an obligation to act.
But the cross-party group fears the necessary additional resources may not have been forthcoming for pupils with school-based action plans because the same level of obligations do not apply.
Suspensions of five days or less among pupils with statements rose by almost 65 per cent between 2003 and 2011 from 1,075 to 1,766. Over the same period the numbers excluded with school-based action plans for their special needs rocketed from 2,433 to 6,383.
In a letter Mr Andrews said he agreed with the group’s concerns. An Assembly government spokesman said: “There is substantial variation in the numbers of exclusions by authority and trends over time.”
He added: “We need to work with local authorities to understand what factors underlie the data. This will inform any necessary actions to tackle any underlying themes.”
A spokesperson for the National Autistic Society Cymru said a reporting deadline should be imposed on the officials tasked with uncovering the reasons for the rise.