‘Don’t let special needs kids be thrown on scrapheap and expelled without diagnosis’, urges councillor

New River College

New River College - Credit: Archant

Kids with learning difficulties need diagnosis and support sooner “to avoid the devastation exclusion can cause”, claims a councillor.

Cllr Phil Graham (Lab, Bunhill) says teachers require more training to help them spot pupils with special needs.

He has also called for an investigation into the number of excluded Islington students who are later diagnosed with austism, ADHD, or similar conditions.

Cllr Graham was due to ask his question at the last cabinet meeting on September 20 but there wasn’t enough time.

He told the Gazette: “In my experience schools don’t seem to be able to recognise autism – it can lead to kids going down the wrong path and dropping off the edge.

“We can’t just turn around and say ‘these kids can be thrown on the scrap-heap because we don’t have the money to deal with them.”

“When they are permanently excluded they get sent somewhere like New River College which, although its staff are very good at their jobs, isn’t dedicated to kids with autism and ADHD.”

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He claimed central government cuts and the scramble for schools to get good Ofsted results is exacerbating the problem.

Cllr Graham says he’s working with numerous Islington youngsters who are struggling to get an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

He gave an example of a 17-year-old girl who was unable to participate in a day’s lessons because she didn’t have a support worker there.

“Support is the biggest problem an some school’s don’t get it,” he said. “

But Islington education chief Cllr Joe Caluori says 94 per cent of kids have EHC plans before the age of 11.

“I was in a meeting with child who was about to be permanently excluded the other day,” said Cllr Graham.

“But in the run up the teacher would always say ‘look me in the eye’. Autistic kids are very sensory aware and many can’t make eye contact.

“It’s all about recognising, once you’ve done that it’s easier to help.

“If there’s a naughty kid, you have to think ‘why are they behaving like that?’

He referenced one child being excluded at just eight years old.

Cllr Graham, who has personal experience of dealing with special needs, also claimed excluded children are four times more likely to go to prison

Last year, 23 kids were permanently excluded from council-run schools.

Cllr Caluori said: “None have since been diagnosed with autism or ADHD.”

“However, one young person with a diagnosis of ADHD prior to exclusion was permanently excluded from a non-Islington school.”

He added: “Islington has a higher number of children with special educational needs compared to other areas.”

Islington’s bidding to become a “trailblazer site”, to secure funds for training and support work for pupils with special educational needs