i have a 4.5 year old son who is autistic (although no formal diagnosis as yet.. still waiting!) He started a mainstream school in September and they tell me he is settling in and learning the routine, but they only want him to go until 12, because they feel he won't cope with a full day and the afternoons are more structured.
Firstly, I asked he could stay later than 12, just so he gets more time for interaction and to eat his lunch (they go in at 11.45 for lunch, so he only gets 15 mins and wonder why he hasn't eaten much!!). The senco agreed he could stay til 12.15, after 1 day I was told he had to finish at 12, because he got a bit overexcited (it turned out a game had started between a few children, so naturally my son got excited with it all).
what also upsets me is when I pick him, he is always sitting at a table alone, I feel like they're saying 'you're "different" to the others, so you should by yourself'
what my concern is that if they say that the afternoons are more structured, doesn't that mean that's when they do their learning (letters and sounds etc)? Which means he basically goes for 3 hours to play (which I know is still important), but he's not really being taught the same as the others.
Sorry for the long post and rant!!
Your post was deeply worrying and I can totally understand why you are concerned. I am really struggling to understand schools attitude here.
Here (below) is a link to IPSEA’s website, specifically their info page on illegal exclusions, which I believe you really need to read:
From what you have posted it sounds as if school is acting unlawfully in ‘unofficially’ excluding your son from attending school in the afternoons. As you will read, IPSEA informs us that children are either in fulltime education or they are not, and there are only two types of legal exclusion- permanent or fixed period, and these formal exclusions must be officially documented and issued by the Head. All other informal exclusions (such as asking you to pick your child up at lunchtimes, only offering your child a part time timetable etc..,) are illegal (regardless of whether they are done with the parents consent or not- i.e. have no fears because you have not done anything wrong whatsoever- we rely on schools to act and advise us lawfully.)
You might want to contact IPSEA for specialist advice (you use their online booking form to book a telephone consultation with them) and I would urge you to definitely contact your local Disability Advisor at your Local Authority and inform them that you believe your sons daily informal exclusions are unlawful- I think it is very possible your school is breaking the law/s.
If school don't believe your son is capable of attending mainstream school full time then there are proper (legal) channels they should be going down, such as requesting an EHC Plan Assessment to identify whether your son requires a different type of school placement or to access one-to-one funding to enable him to manage etc..- not just exclude him indefinitely from attending school full time! Also, unless they give him the chance to try full days with them how can they possibly know whether he can manage it or not? These are all highly concerning issues (including him eating alone everyday, bless him) which I think your LA Disability Advisor will be able to help you with.
Don’t worry about the fact your son does not have a formal diagnosis yet- the SEN Code of Practice states that a child does not have to have a formal diagnosis in order to be protected in SEN law.
Best of luck.
Thank you so much for your information and advice. I have recently had a meeting with the school and they have informed that part time is the best solution for my son for now, as they are trying to obtain a EHCP for him.