THE NUMBER of children with autism being excluded from Dorset schools has increased by almost a quarter since 2011, according to new data.

Figures from Ambitious about Autism – a national charity for children and young people with autism – show that exclusions of children with autism increased by 23 per cent from 38 to 48 between 2011-12 and 2015-16

During the same period nationally, they increased by at least 44 per cent in every part of England totalling more than

4,485 pupils.

The number far outstrips the overall number of pupils being excluded from school in the county, which has risen by 8.6 per cent.

The region that has seen the biggest rise was the North West where there has been a 100 per cent increase in the number of children with autism excluded since 2011 from 245 to 490 pupils.

However, the charity said that although there had been an increase in children with autism in schools, the exclusion rate remained disproportionate to their number.

Currently, children with autism account for just over 1 per cent of the school population, but make up 2.5 per cent of all exclusions.

The charity has submitted its findings to the school exclusions review, an independent review, commissioned by the government and led by former children’s minister Edward Timpson.

Jolanta Lasota, chief executive of Ambitious about Autism, said: “Schools are shutting out thousands of children with autism.

“The impact of these exclusions can’t be underestimated – not only do children fall behind academically, but the isolation from their peers creates deep unhappiness, social anxiety and mental health problems.”

“Our evidence clearly shows children with autism are disproportionately at risk from exclusion, compared to other pupils. “The new school exclusions review must get to the bottom of what is happening to these children – who have been failed for too long by our education system.”

Nadhim Zahawi, minister for children and families, said: “We want every child with autism to have the support they need to unlock their potential, no matter what challenges they face.

“Thanks to this government’s reforms, more children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities are getting the support they need at school and college, and the number who move on to training schemes, apprenticeships or supported internships is increasing.

“We know more needs to be done to make sure that vulnerable children are not unfairly treated.

“We have launched a review of school exclusions, led by Edward Timpson. The review aims to explore how school use exclusions overall and in particular why some groups of children – such as children with autism – are more likely to be excluded than others.”

In response, a spokesman for Dorset County Council, said: ““Where our exclusions officer is made aware of any young person with an Education, Health and Care Plan, including where autism is a main diagnosis, they would be working very hard with both the school and parents and carers to actively avoid exclusion.

“Our role is to establish a positive, workable Pastoral Support Plan to prevent exclusion.”