Friday, November 10, 2006

Exclusive education

The Education and Inspections Bill, which we've written about before, has just received Royal Assent. Despite ferocious opposition from education, disability and children's NGOs, a new offence has been created for parents of allowing a child excluded from school to be in a public place during school hours - and parents are entirely reponsible for their child for the first 5 days of any exclusion. An extension to police truancy powers means that the police also have a new mandate to detain in a 'designated place' any excluded pupil encountered during school hours.

We're having one of those "have they gone mad?" moments. Most exclusions are of children with special needs, eg 21% of those on the autistic spectrum will be excluded at some point. The National Autistic Society points out:
It is our experience that for the vast majority of children with ASD, exclusion represents a failure on the part of their educational setting to provide appropriate support and training to effectively manage their behaviour. In many cases, exclusions result from a lack of understanding on the part of teachers, learning support staff and supervisory staff of the social and communication impairments experienced by children with autism.
In other words, we have an 'inclusive' education system that can't actually deliver for disabled children, and now the responsibility is thrown back on parents, who have been handed a criminal liability for good measure.

And how is it acceptable for the police to detain anyone, child or adult, who has not committed a criminal offence, and can't even be suspected of having done so because no offence exists? Whenever we have challenged the DfES on police truancy powers, the fall back position has been that good old standby: 'child protection' but that is utter nonsense. How can a child only need 'protection' between 9am and 3.30pm on weekdays? Is this an especially dangerous time for children? In any case, the police already have child protection powers at any time of day where a child is genuinely in need of help.

Pity the autistic or severely hyperactive child banged up at home in a flat on a hot summer day, unable even to visit the park. And pity the parent who not only has to cope, on pain of a fine, but also risks losing his/her job because of the need to take 5 days off work. Welcome to compassionate, modern England.


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