§ Mr. Hancock
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans she has to reduce the number of exclusions from school of autistic children; how she plans to support autistic children in Autism Awareness Year; and if she will make a statement. 
§ Stephen Twigg
Figures on the number of children excluded from school by type of special educational need are not collected centrally. Guidance from the Department makes clear that, other than in the most exceptional circumstances, schools should avoid permanently excluding pupils with statements of special educational needs. The guidance also requires head teachers to say, when reporting exclusions to Discipline Committees and local education authorities, whether the pupil has special educational needs, either with or without a statement. The most recent figures show that the rate of permanent 121W exclusions for children with statements of special educational needs as compared with other pupils is declining—three times as high in 2000–01 as compared with six times as high the previous year.
On 22 July the Department published guidance from its Autism Working Group on autistic spectrum disorders. This provides guidance to schools, local education authorities and others on the nature of the disorders and pointers to good practice. It will raise awareness of autistic spectrum disorders further and help teachers and local education authorities to fulfil their statutory duties to meet children's special educational needs, whether the children are in mainstream or special schools.