Disability report fuels debate on proposed changes to school exclusion rules

writes Lauren Revans

Disability campaigners are hoping to use a report by MPs into the difficulties facing the families of children with disabilities to strengthen their case against the introduction of more punitive measures to deal with parents of excluded pupils.

The new report, based on parliamentary hearings on services for disabled children held in July, highlights systemic problems with the way support is provided to families with disabled children.

Advice Centre for Education policy officer Chris Gravell welcomed its recognition of the difficulties parents of disabled children face finding child-minding and baby-sitting services, particularly where children have behavioural difficulties arising from their disability.

She said that this new evidence would be highlighted during the third reading of the Education and Inspections Bill as a further reason to amend proposals to make a parent guilty of a criminal offence if their child is seen in a public place during school hours during the first five days of any period of exclusion.

She said the MPs’ report undermined reassurances from education minister Lord Adonis earlier this week that the clause would not force parents to take time off themselves as they would be free to make alternative supervision arrangements.

“As children with disabilities/special educational needs are the majority of excluded children, and their parents find obtaining care for them so difficult, will this not lead to parents of this group of children being forced to take time off work and taking another financial hit,” Gravell asked.

“We should be actively looking afresh at any of these punitive actions against children which are going to have much more of an impact on children whose challenging behaviour stems from their disability.”

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