Monday, December 20, 2010

Latest update on SEN Green Paper

The SEN Green Paper is now expected to be published in the New Year and most likely in February, we have been told.

The Government recently published a summary of the responses it received to it 'Call for Views' consultation, which will inform the Green Paper. Click here to read that summary. 

Almost 2,000 people responded to the 'Call for Views' and a large number of them were parents of children with Special Educational Needs (SEN).

Key themes identified in the responses include:
  • The importance of early identification of needs
  • Ensuring teachers are better trained in SEN as well as increasing access to specialists
  • The importance of more joined up working between agencies
  • The involvement of parents and children in choosing educational provision and plannning for transition
These issues chime well with the things that parents tell us about the challenges of the education system and the key things we highlighted in our response to the Call for Views.

We are currently carrying out some research on the SEN system and how it works for children with autism to help inform our response to the Green Paper when it is published. Keep checking back here for more information.

Also to help with this, please state in the comments section below what one thing you think would make the biggest difference for children with autism in the education system.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pupil Premium

On Monday the Government confirmed details of its Pupil Premium, originally announced back in July.

The level of the pupil premium will be £430 per pupil and will be the same for every deprived pupil, no matter where they live. The total funding available for the pupil premium will be £625m in 2011-12, rising each year until 2014-15 when it will be worth £2.5bn.

In 2011-12, the pupil premium will be allocated to those pupils eligible for Free School Meals, and from 2012-13 it will be extended the reach of the premium to those who have previously been on free school meals too.

Looked-after children will also receive a premium of £430, which will rise in line with the premium for deprived pupils.

Children with autism will benefit from this measure as they are more likely to be eligible for free school meals (although interestingly less likely to be eligible than those with other Special Educational Needs). 18% of children with autism as their primary need, who are on school action plus and 22% of children with autism who have a statement are eligible for free school meals compared to 14.2% of children with no Special Educational Need.

Both mainstream schools and (in the case of local authority maintained special schools) local authorities will have discretion as to how they respectively spend and distribute the funding, in line with the current localism agenda.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Gaps in support for Scottish children with autism highlighted by inspectors.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education (HMIE) has produced a new report reviewing the impact the Additional Support for Learning (ASL) Act is having in Scottish schools.

Called ‘Adding Benefits for Learners’, the report concludes that on the whole, the majority of schools are effectively identifying children’s additional support needs, that good strategies built around multi-agency working are in place and that education and health professionals are working together to effectively identify and assess children’s needs.

This is good news for the ASL system in Scotland. However inspectors have also identified that progress has not been universal across all groups of children. They have especially highlighted significant gaps in meeting the more ‘hidden’ needs, such as autism.

One example used of this problem is awareness around the barriers to learning that can have a direct impact on children’s mental health, for example autism, ADHD, long-term medical conditions and being looked after.

Inspectors highlight significant problems with accessing Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) provision who can provide direct support to children and young people and advise teachers on appropriate interventions for learning.

The report also highlights issues around the accuracy of the data collected on pupils, the numbers of cases involving a pupil with an ASD who have to use the Tribunal service, gaps in pre-5 training and the consistency of the use of Co-ordinated Support Plans.

NAS Scotland has welcomed the report as it confirms our own concerns that children and young people with autism are often not getting the support the need in school.

The Importance of Teaching – Education White Paper

As reported earlier on this site, the Government has published its plans for reform of the education system in a “White Paper” called The Importance of Teaching.

More details on reform to the system for children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) will be available in the SEN Green Paper expected later this year or early next year.

However, the following proposals in the White Paper also have implications for children with autism:

·        Reforms to teacher training
·        Proposals on discipline, behaviour and bullying
·        Changes to exclusion policies and Independent Appeal Panels
·        Admissions and the role of local authorities
·        Special school academies
Teacher training
As the name of the White Paper suggests, the Government places high importance on getting teacher training right. The White Paper highlights the importance of ensuring teachers know how to support children with SEN and says that more details will be in the forthcoming Green Paper.

The National Autistic Society is campaigning for every teacher to have training in autism. We also believe that teachers should be able to access expertise and advice from autism specialists when they need it.

Discipline, behaviour and bullying
The Government is intending to produce shorter and clearer guidance on the ability of teachers to use force and discipline children outside of school. Teachers will be given greater discretion in these areas.

The National Autistic Society will be working to make sure that the needs of children with autism are looked at carefully in that guidance.

Addressing bullying, and particularly prejudiced based bullying, is to become a Government priority. To address this, Government guidance will be simplified and Ofsted will be asked to report on successful approaches to tackling bullying.

We are pleased that the Government wants to focus on prejudiced based bullying, as we know that children with autism are often targeted by bullies. We will be working with Government on bullying guidance.

We have previously expressed concerns about the Conservative Party’s proposals to get rid of Independent Appeal Panels for exclusions. We welcome the White Paper’s recognition that it is important that these Panels remain independent.

However, we note that the Government intends to take away the power from these panels to reinstate an excluded pupil from a school. We would welcome wider views on this. Please comment below.

We welcome the Government’s plans to pilot a new approach to exclusions where a school is responsible for arranging and funding alternative provision for an excluded child.

27% of children with autism are excluded from school at least once, compared with 4% of other children. It is essential that alternative and appropriate provision is found for children with autism, following exclusion.

Admissions and the role of local authorities
Local authorities and the School Adjudicator will continue to have a role in ensuring the coordination of admissions arrangements and fairness, including for academies. The Government will also simplify the Admissions Code, but will continue to apply the principle of fair admissions for Looked After Children and pupils with a statement of SEN.

The National Autistic Society will be watching reforms to the Admissions Code with interest. We have particular concerns about admissions for those without a Statement.

Local Authorities  will continue to have responsibility for disabled children and those with SEN. However, as funding is increasingly delegated to academies, they will increasingly move to a strategic commissioning and oversight role. They will of course continue to fund provision for pupils with a statement of SEN.

Where a local authority has significant concerns about an Academy or Free School in relation to these issues, it will be able to ask Ofsted to inspect the school.

Special school academies
The academies programme will be expanded to include special schools, with the application process open in January 2011 and the potential for special school academies to open from September 2011. The Green Paper on SEN and Disability will consider the issues raised specifically around special schools academies in more detail.

If you have any comments about these proposals, do comment below.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

White Paper sets out importance of teacher training in SEN

The Government published their White Paper on the future of education in England today.

We are particularly pleased that it proposes that initial teacher training includes how to support children with special educational needs (SEN).

The NAS has long been calling for initial teacher training to include autism and this was a key demand of the Make School, Make Sense campaign.

In the run up to the publication of the Green Paper on SEN, expected next month, and in response to the Green Paper we will be putting pressure on the Government to make sure that autism is included within this training.

We also believe that specialist teachers in autism, working across clusters of schools are vital to build capacity and help teachers to teach and support children with autism.

Check back later this week for more details on the White Paper and its implications for children with autism!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


The Government has today launched a consultation on the introduction of a reading test for all children at age 6.

The idea is that where pupils have not reached a required standard, they will receive additional support so they can catch up with their peers.

The test will involve no more than 40 items (individual words to be read) to be presented to each child.

The children will read out the words one-to-one to an adult they know, who will score the response to each item. It is intended to take around 5 minutes for each child to complete the screening check.

The Government also intends to put in place detailed guidance on how children with special educational needs (SEN) can be supported to access the screening check.

The NAS believes that screening is important to identify any issues children may have at an early stage. However, a reading test may not be the best way to identify autism and we believe that other screening options should be looked at to ensure that children with autism are picked up early and supported.

What do you think? How useful would a reading test be for children with autism? How would the test need to be adapted for children with autism?

See: for more details

Monday, November 22, 2010

Education White Paper to be launched on Wednesday

The Government is widely expected to publish its White Paper on education on Wednesday of this week.

A White Paper is a document in which the Government outlines its intentions in a certain policy area. Once we have seen the document we will publish more details on this site.

Any proposals set out in the White Paper that will need legislation to bring about change are likely to be included in the Education Bill, expected in December. The Bill is intended to give schools more control over curricula, and will introduce the pupil premium to target funding for disadvantaged students, as well as new reading tests for all six-year-olds.

A few weeks ago, the media reported that the Government was proposing that funding be directed straight to schools, thus by-passing local authorities.  The National Autistic Society is keeping a close eye on this potential proposal and impact it could have on specialist services (such as autism outreach teams) run by Local Authorities, were it to be implemented.

Other rumours in the press include a proposal to abolish the current GCSE structure of frequent modular exams, replacing them with a single exam at the end of the study period.

We do know for sure that the White Paper and Bill won’t deal in depth with Special Educational Needs, which will be covered by a separate Green Paper, also due in DecemberSee previous entries for more information on the Green Paper.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Reform – some radical proposals for improving schools

Reform, an independent right-leaning think tank co-founded by Conservative Policing Minister Nick Herbert, before he was a Minister, has published a report calling on the Government to go further with its education reforms. The report calls for:

  • The scrapping of national pay and conditions agreements, allowing head teachers the freedom to ‘set the right balance between pay, staff numbers and quality’.
  • A radical programme for improving teacher quality.
  • Limiting the use of teaching assistants; the report suggests that extensive use of teaching assistants could even be damaging, particularly in the case of children with Special Educational Needs.
The report does not reflect Government policy, but Reform does have a lot of influence with the Government.

At the NAS, we agree that improving standards in teaching is important. We know that expertise among teaching professionals, including teaching assistants is crucial in making sure that children with autism get the help they need to fulfil their potential.

However, we have concerns about the impact reducing the numbers of teaching assistants may have on the support children with autism receive in the classroom and will make this clear in any discussions we have with Government.

Please leave a comment below to let us know what you think of the findings of the report.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

NAS gives evidence to the Education Select Committee

On Wednesday, Jane Vaughan, Director of Education at the NAS, gave evidence to the Education Select Committee, which is currently holding an inquiry into behaviour. The idea behind the session was for MPs on the Committee to hear from teachers and of organisations that represent children with special educational needs. Representatives of the Special Educational Consortium, I CAN and Young Minds gave evidence too.

You can watch the Select Committee session online. The evidence from the NAS begins at 1 hour and 14 minutes.

During the session, Jane put forward several ideas. Firstly, she said that we should focus more on a child’s learning, and the support they need to learn, rather than on managing a child’s behaviour, because when a child is able to learn, behavioural problems can be avoided.

Jane called upon the committee to think carefully about autism awareness training for all teaching staff, including head teachers and governors. She also said that assessments should be carried out before schools think about excluding a pupil, in order to make sure that their perceived bad behaviour is not due to a special educational need.

During the evidence, Jane gave several examples of when a special educational need was mistaken for bad behaviour. You can watch one of them at 2 hours and 4 minutes into the video.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Education in this week's Spending Review

This week's Spending Review will set the direction of public services over the next few years.  Here are some of the key education things we've identified from the announcement this week:
  • Real terms increases of 0.1 per cent in each year of the Spending Review (up to 2015) for the 5-16 school budget
  • Overall resource savings in Department for Education’s non-schools budget of 12 per cent in real terms
  • A new fairness premium to support the poorest children.  This will be worth £7.2 billion in total between now and 2015, including through a £2.5 billion pupil premium, additional early years provision and a National Scholarship fund in higher education
  • In early years, Sure Start funding is protected in cash terms, including new investment in Sure Start health visitors.  Reforms to Sure Start children’s centres will encourage more community providers to enter the market, including through payment by results.
  • The Government will make further savings through rationalising and ending centrally directed programmes for children, young people and families
  • A single contact point for funding for further education colleges and other training organisations
  • The Government will also improve the quality of information and advice for students, including through the development of an all-age careers service.
  • The Government will look to significantly extend the use of personal budgets across a range of service areas including special education needs and support for children with disabilities.
We don’t know all the details of these announcements yet, and the implications of all these announcements will be worked out over coming weeks and months. We will keep you updated on some of the key developments here.

You can find more information about the Spending Review here: 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

SEN minister addresses APPGA

On Monday, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism (APPGA) met at Parliament to discuss the Government's Review of special educational needs (SEN) and how the system can be improved.

The meeting was really well attended by professionals from the sector and MPs, including Graham Stuart MP, chair of the education select committee, Russell Brown MP, Robert Buckland MP and Lord Clement-Jones.

In a speech to the group, Minister for Children and Families, Sarah Teather made assurances that although cuts to government spending will make it more difficult to improve the system, they will not stop reform from happening. She said that it’s “not right” that parents have to battle system to get the right support for their child and that she intends the new system to be much more ‘family friendly’. She also wants there to be a focus on diagnosis and early intervention, giving families more choice in their child's education, and transition to adulthood.

She also thanked Ralph Hemus, one of young campaigners for his excellent speech about his and his family’s experience of the system. Ralph spoke to attendees about how difficult it can be to be a child with autism at a school where there is not enough understanding and how he thinks that teachers and pupils should be educated about autism.  

Minister Sarah Teather (right) and Charlotte Leslie MP (left)
listen to Ralph talk about his experiences of the SEN system

After the speeches, members of Parliament and members of the public had the opportunity to put their questions to the minister, allowing her to explain some more about her ideas for improving the system.

Although the Call for Views is now closed, there will be further opportunities to give your views on the system when the Green Paper is published later this year. We will keep you updated.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Meeting in Parliament on education for children with autism

This Monday Sarah Teather, the Minister in charge of special educational needs (SEN), will be speaking at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism (APPGA)*.

The Department for Education recently launched a call for views on how the education system is working for children with SEN, which will feed into the publication of a Green Paper on SEN later this year (see earlier post for more details). The APPGA meeting will be a great forum for Sarah Teather to speak more on her ideas. There will also be time for questions and we expect there to be a vibrant discussion about this important issue. 

We will report back to you after the meeting, letting you know how the event went and what was said. But if you would like to attend the meeting you can find out more details about it on the APPGA website. Please contact if you would like to attend.

Tell us below what you would like to ask to Sarah Teather if you had an opportunity to speak to her.

* The APPGA is a group of MPs and Lords who share an interest in autism. The APPGA meets a few times a year, on a variety of topics. Meetings are open to members of the public to attend, although they take place in the Houses of Parliament and require you to pass through security. If you would like to find out more about the APPGA, please visit

Friday, October 8, 2010

NAS heads to Labour and Conservative party conferences

Following the success of our fringe event at the Liberal Democrat conference, the NAS has also been to the Labour and Conservative party conferences to highlight the issues people with autism and their families face to politicians from across the political spectrum.

At the 'Cocktails and Conversation' event at the Labour party conference we focused again on child mental health services and the issues raised in the You Need to Know campaign during a lively and well-attended event. Jacob Denness, a member of the NAS Young Campaigners group, spoke about his experiences of the child mental health system and school to kick the discussions off.

Diana Johnson MP, the shadow minister for health, summed up at the end and talked about the importance of the Coalition's proposals on reforming the health system, and how they will affect services, encouraging people to make sure the Government heard from people.

At the Conservative conference, we focused on the special educational needs system, in advance of the publication of the Government's new SEN Green Paper. NAS Chair Colin Barrow hosted the event, and Ralph Hemus, another Young Campaigner, talked about his views and experiences of education. He told the delegates:

"My brother is famous for having been excluded from playgroup, nursery school, primary school, secondary school and college! When he couldn’t cope his behaviour was really bad and for that he was misunderstood and labelled 'difficult'. When I couldn’t cope, I became withdrawn and for that I was 'overlooked'.

Mainstream support in schools has to be really good. Teachers must be trained and awareness raised or many of us will leave school more isolated, with mental health issues and without friends and not be able to cope and get jobs.

I think that some schools and Local Authorities stereotype pupils with autism and little flexibility is given to individual learning methods and coping strategies.

It is really important that kids with special educational needs are helped with a good education and teachers trained in the best methods of teaching us, but the emotional needs of autistic young people I think is even more important and schools must be taught about this."

Graham Stuart MP, the new chair of the parliamentary education select committee said the key point he had understood from the discussions was the importance of effective training. Charlotte Leslie MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism (APPGA), talked about how important it is to get the system right for young people moving into adulthood.

All the events had excellent attendance and lively discussions, and provided an opportunity for senior party members, MPs and councillors, to hear first hand about the issues that children with autism and their families face.

We also took the opportunity to meet with lots of new and existing MPs to make sure they understand about autism and can help us with the key issues we're trying to get change on.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

NAS at Lib Dem Conference

The Policy and Campaigns Team have been busy this week at the Liberal Democrat Conference talking to MPs about issues affecting children and adults with autism, including education.

We spoke about our concerns about a lack of awareness and understanding of autism among school staff and about the challenges facing parents with autism, as they battle to get the support  their children need at school.

NAS Fringe event
The NAS also held its third annual 'Cocktails and Conversation' fringe event, this year focusing on mental health services for children with autism, following the launch of our You Need to Know Campaign.  

One of our young campaigners Hayley Nickels spoke at the event about her experiences of mental health services. Among other things she highlighted some of the problems she had had at school that had led to her developing mental health problems.

In the discussion that followed, the importance of better integrated working between health, education and social care was stressed.

Government spokesperson Baroness Northover said that it was worrying that so few parents and families felt that mental health services were helping them and that resources were being wasted as a result.

Liberal Democrat MP Annette Brooke stressed that it was really important that schools worked to prevent mental health problems from developing. 

To find out more about the You Need to Know campaign see: 

We will also be at Labour and Conservative Party Conferences and will keep you up to date on what we are doing on this site.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Too many children labelled as having a special educational need?

This week Ofsted published a report on education in England for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Much of the media coverage of the report focused on its claim that too many children were being identified as having a special educational need, when in fact what was needed in schools was better teaching.

However, the report also highlighted that children with complex needs, such as autism were not being identified or given access to the support they needed.

The report also recognised that all too often parents were having to fight to get the right support for their children. At the NAS, we regularly hear from parents who have experienced these battles.

Ofsted also noted that even when additional support was in place, not enough was being done to make sure that it was effective and actually helping the child to achieve their potential.

Click here to read our response to the report

Click here to read the full report.

Please comment below on your thoughts about the report and the press coverage.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Government asks for views on education for children with special educational needs

The Government has today launched a 'Call for Views' on how the education system is working for children with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities.

They will use the information they get from this to write a 'Green Paper' which will set out proposals for reform. The Green Paper is expected to be published later this year.

The National Autistic Society will be responding to this Call for Views. Later this year, we will also be carrying out some research with parents of children with autism, children with autism and professionals to inform our response to the Green Paper. More information on this research will follow on this page.

If you want to take part in the current Call for Views, go to the Department for Education's website. You have until 15th October 2010 to let them know what you think.

Please also leave a comment below, telling us what you think would make the biggest change for children with autism.

National Autistic Society Launches NAS Education Update!

The National Autistic Society has today launched NAS Education Update!

This is a new service designed to keep you up to date about reforms of the education system, what the NAS is doing and what you can do to make sure the education system understands and meets the needs of all children with autism.

Save it to your favourites and keep popping back to make sure that you are up to date!