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Special needs pupils are top of expulsions

PUBLISHED: 15:50 10 April 2008 | UPDATED: 14:38 25 August 2010

EXCLUSIVE research has revealed that the majority of pupils expelled from borough schools have special educational needs (SEN).

EXCLUSIVE research has revealed that the majority of pupils expelled from borough schools have special educational needs (SEN).

A freedom of information request by the Times revealed that 78 per cent of pupils expelled from Greenwich schools last year were identified by their school as having SEN.

In Bexley last year, 68 per cent of the borough's 57 expelled pupils were believed to have learning or emotional difficulties. This includes children who have statements and those identified or being watched for SEN under the School Action scheme.

Samantha Harmon of the Woolwich Common Estate, whose son was expelled from two schools before being diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, was unsurprised by the figures.

The single mum, 35, said: "I'm shocked by the figures because you don't want it to be that high, but I'm not surprised.

"It makes me feel saddened that so many other parents might be going through this."

Ms Harmon's son, Karl, was asked to leave Bexley's St Columba's School in 2003, and then was expelled from Crown Woods, Eltham, in 2005 for threatening behaviour.

Greenwich council's Pupil Referral Unit was the only option left for him and his behaviour rapidly deteriorated as he copied the conduct of these around him.

Ms Harmon said: "They knew he was special. He was academically bright and was moved up a year, but he was not emotionally advanced.

"He was not understood. A child with Asperger Syndrome and ADHD left outside a classroom with just a book is asking for trouble.

"As he was not disabled to look at in any way and because he was bright, no one seemed to think he had SEN."

The percentage of pupils with SEN getting expelled in Bexley and Greenwich has risen dramatically over the years.

In the academic year beginning 2002, the figure stood at just 40 per cent in Greenwich and 44 per cent in Bexley.

Last July Ms Harmon won a tribunal against Greenwich council, forcing them to pay for her son's education at a specialist school, leaving her with depression and anxiety problems.

However, she fears that with so many vulnerable pupils being expelled, more children with serious difficulties will slip through the net.

Greenwich Mencap worker Gila Richardson, whose child has an Autistic Spectrum Disorder, said: "I wouldn't say that all schools are not good at providing SEN support but they just don't have the resources in place and Greenwich council does not give them the funding to make it better.

"There are some children that just cannot cope with mainstream education and are now being forced to deal with it because there is no alternative. So they get expelled because they are misunderstood."

"I strongly believe that they have not got the support in the schools that they need."

A spokesman for Greenwich council refused to comment about the figures but added: "By delegating resources directly to schools, head teachers will have the ability to intervene and fund assistance to children who need support, rather than have to wait sometimes for many weeks or months for support to be provided."

A spokesman for Bexley council said: "Bexley schools work hard to prevent exclusion of any child. The overall number of children excluded in Bexley in 2006/07 went down by 10 per cent.

"The percentage of Bexley SEN children who are excluded is no higher than the latest national figure.

"The London Borough of Bexley recognises that more work needs to be done and we are doing so - we have recently signed up to the national Every Disabled Child Matters charter and is making improvements to the Pupil Referral Service for children that are at risk from exclusion."

jules.cooper@archant.co.uk

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