The Exclusion of Autistic Pupils from Schools

Current data shows that autistic pupils are twice as likely to be excluded from school as those who do not have SEND. This data does not tell the whole story though, the Autism Centre for Education and Research (ACER) conducted research on exclusion and found that at least 25% of parents reported unofficial or illegal exclusions of their children1.

Why is this happening?

Department for Education datastates that the reasons for fixed term exclusions primarily centre on pupil’s behaviour. Our research found that exclusion ofautistic pupils is as a result of:

  • A failure of staff to makereasonable adjustments
  • Inadequate systems and policies
  • Budgets being cut in the areas ofessential support

What are the impacts of exclusion?


  • 76% of parents took timeoff work and 47% had financial issues.
  • A large portion of theannual UK economic costs (£3.1 billion per year in childhood)2 is down to lossof parental productivity.
  • Eligibility for free school meals is 11% higher forautistic pupils than the general population.

Lifelong and Profound

  • For pupils, exclusion impacts on self-esteem,leads to isolation from friends, and leaves them feeling let down by education.
  • 97% of parents experienced significantimpact on their stress levels.
  • The mental health toll on pupilsand families throughout this period is clear.

A Call for Action

The SEND Review needs to address many of theconcerns raised in this report.

  • Schools need to make reasonable adjustmentsfor pupils with autism to prevent exclusionsand schools need to reduce informal and illegalexclusions.
  • Government and schools need to ensureadjustments are made to ensure parentalemployment is not impacted.
  • Schools must improve communication withfamilies at every stage of the exclusion process.


1. Guldberg, K., Wallace, S., Bradley,R., Perepa, P., Ellis, L and MacLeod, A.(2021) Investigation into the causes andimplications of exclusion for autistic children and young people. 

2. Buescher, A.V.S., Cidav, Z., Knapp, M.,Mandell, D.S. (2014) Costs of AutismSpectrum Disorders in the United Kingdomand the United States . JAMA Pediatr.2014;168(8):721–728.

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The Autism Centre for Education and Research (ACER) contributes to improving the quality of life for autistic people by conducting meaningful research and educational provision. Find out more about our research: