PUPILS with autism and other special needs are being forced to endure traumatic experiences at school before they get the support they need, experts have warned.

Nick Ward, director of the National Autistic Society Scotland, said the situation had arisen because of a policy that presumes children are better educated in mainstream schools regardless of any learning difficulties or physical impairments.

Giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s education committee, Mr Ward also warned that budget cuts played their part with councils unable to afford placements in special schools.

He said: “We’ve perversely created a system where a child has to fail in a mainstream school to get the specialist place it requires because local authorities don’t want to pay for it. That is an absolutely abhorrent situation.

“You’ve got autistic children basically being set up for a series of traumatic experiences and the family being set up for a series of traumatic experiences, all to get their child in the place they need to be.

“That’s not fair on the family, that’s not fair on the child and it’s not fair on the teachers.”

Read more: Crisis as schools record record numbers of special needs pupils

Mr Ward said parents had to “fight tooth and nail” to get the appropriate placement for their child.

Asked by Liz Smith, education spokeswoman for the Conservative Party, about the mainstreaming policy Mr Ward said a lack of support was creating a “dangerous” situation.

He added: “If funded well and if training is provided for all members of staff, mainstreaming is brilliant.

“When you don’t fund it well, when you don’t support it well, then it actually becomes a bit dangerous for kids with additional support needs.”

Seamus Searson, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, went on to warn that schools were being forced to keep disruptive children in class because of targets to reduce exclusions.

He said: “Many teachers are expected to keep youngsters in their schools and it’s partly because of finances - the amount of money it’s going to cost for a youngster to go to specialist schools.

“The council do all they can, because of the financial restrictions, to prevent that happening.

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“That’s a mistake because what it means is a youngster is frustrated, struggles in a school situation, the teachers can’t cope with them and there’s tremendous pressure.”

The number of children with additional needs has roughly doubled since 2011 while numbers of specialist teachers and assistants is dropping.

However, Kayleigh Thorpe from learning disability charity Enable stressed that it wasn’t solely about the school or institution children went to, but the support and training staff had.

Calling for more guidance to ensure that children are properly included and integrated into schools, she added: “I would caution against viewing bricks and mortar as the solution.

“We find it’s how we take specialist knowledge and how we insert it into the whole system.

“Any success story we’ve heard is where a person has made a difference not the setting.”