Why has my autistic son been excluded from school age five?
A father believes a decision to permanently exclude his five-year-old son from his primary school has been taken unfairly.
Daniel Bull claims Tickenham Church of England VA Primary School has not been accommodating to his son Zack Holt, who has special educational needs.
The 35-year-old understands Zack, who has been diagnosed with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and pathological demand avoidance (PDA), is among the youngest children in North Somerset to have been permanently excluded.
He appealed against the ruling and the school’s decision was criticised at an independent review hearing, where a panel accused the school of making “serious procedural flaws” and described the teaching provision for Zack as seriously lacking.
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Despite the criticism, the school stood by its original decision, claiming that Zack had broken the school’s behavioural policy and posed a risk to the welfare of others at the school.
Mr Bull, who lives in Tickenham and has two older children at the school, says he feels his family has been let down by a school it has always supported.
He said his son has now missed two months of schooling as a result of the exclusion in January, which was decided by the school and its governing body.
Mr Bull, who wants his child to remain in mainstream education, has now been told he will need to find another school to accommodate Zack.
He said: “When he was excluded, the school failed to provide him with work to do.
“After the appeal, an independent hearing at Weston-super-Mare gave five or six reasons why the school wasn’t doing what it could to accommodate Zack.
“They asked the school to look at its decision again. I feel it was a bit unfair and the school hadn’t accommodated him very well.
“His PDA is a disability relating to him not doing as he is told. On top of his disabilities, he’s a five-year-old boy.
“Basically he is hard work. But the school should have a prepared, trained teacher. He will sort of trash the classroom at times and can be disruptive.
“I feel like the school hasn’t dealt with it properly. I consider myself a fair person who has backed up the school – we’ve done everything we can to support the school.
“It was like they had made the decision and stuck by it. The local authority has suggested trying other schools.”
The independent review panel, which called for the school to review its original decision, concluded there had been inconsistencies in the disciplinary action taken by the school and there were serious procedural flaws in the way in which Zack was excluded. The panel also found the school had not made adequate or sufficient adjustments to avoid Zack being substantially disadvantaged while at school as a result of his disabilities.
In response, the school and its governors reassessed the decision but reached the same conclusion.
Their letter to Mr Bull said there was evidence of serious and numerous breaches of the school’s behavioural policy and that Zack would pose a risk to the welfare of others if he remained in school. The letter said the school had accepted “there were areas” where it could have acted differently but did not believe it would have changed the outcome.
The school’s head teacher Dean Hudd said: “We want all our children to benefit from coming to school and to reach their full potential.
“Where behaviour falls below an acceptable level we will work with the pupil and parents to see what can be done.
“There will be rare occasions where we have no alternative but to exclude a pupil – this is not a decision we take lightly.”