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.