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.