Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Staffordshire Council apologises for educational support failures

Local Government Ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin, has found that Staffordshire County Council failed to meet the educational and care needs of a young man with autism (‘J’).

In a decision welcomed by the NAS, the Ombudsman has asked for the Council to apologise and make compensation.

The complaint was first made by J’s mother, on behalf of her son who has autism, selective mutism and complex learning difficulties. He needs support with his education and personal care, which was provided adequately at his original school. However, after turning 16 he transferred to a new placement in September 2009. At this point, the Council failed to amend his statement of special educational needs. This meant that there was much less support available for him at the new college, leaving him severely stressed and unhappy.

At the end of the school year, the council agreed in principle that J’s needs would be better served at a different school, 15 miles from the family’s home. However, they told J’s mother that they would not help with J’s transport costs until their assessment was complete. By this point, October 2010, the new academic year was beginning. J’s mother enrolled J at the new school and began transporting him there and back herself.

The Ombudsman has ruled that the Council’s failure to keep J’s statement up-to-date meant that his family lost the opportunity to challenge the view that J no longer needed speech and language therapy, to have the statement reviewed by professionals, and appeal against details in the statement.

As well as this, J’s social care arrangements were poorly handled – his transition social worker did not complete his assessment in time for him to make a smooth transition to adult respite care provision. Instead, the transfer after his 18th birthday was rushed and stressful.

The Ombudsman found that the combined lack of educational and care support caused J and his family a lot of unnecessary distress. She said, ‘Transition to adulthood is exceptionally difficult for the parents of a child with complex educational and care needs. It is vital that the proper support is in place to ensure that this transition goes as smoothly as possible, but that was not the case here.’

Staffordshire County Council has acknowledged its failings and apologised. It has also agreed to pay the complainant (J’s mother) £5250 in compensation. Because J has little concept of money, they will be installing a swing-seat in the garden of his home in lieu of compensation.

In making this ruling, the Ombudsman has sent a clear message to all local authorities that they must ensure that they are meeting their statutory duties around transition.

Monday, November 21, 2011

'Achievement for All' achieves great results

A Government-funded pilot of a new scheme to improve outcomes for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) has produced excellent results, according to an independent evaluation carried out by the University of Manchester. Because of this, the Government now aims to fund its implementation in schools across the country.

The Achievement for All scheme has been running in 450 schools for the last two years, and has resulted in children with SEND make greater progress in attainment, behaviour and attendance than other SEND children outside of the pilot. The report also finds that the scheme successfully narrowed the attainment gap between SEND and non-SEND children, with some children in the pilot even exceeding the progress of children without SEND.

Key findings of the report include:
  • 37% of children achieved or exceeded expected levels of progress for all pupils nationally in English. The figure was 42% in Maths.
  • There was an average reduction in persistent absence of 10%
  • Teachers reported fewer incidents of bullying and behavioural problems
  • A big rise in schools reporting excellent relationships with parents – from 12% to 48%
The report found that the most successful schools shared several key factors. Good results were built on strong leadership from the head teacher, regular conversations with parents about educational outcomes and targets, and the sharing of results between schools. The report also found that children with free school meals, English as a second language, or complex needs made progress that was good but slower than their peers. It recommends focusing resources on additional support for these groups.

The Government is now providing £14 million for the programme to be rolled out across the country, and estimates that 1,000 schools will have signed up for the programme by next April. Children’s Minister Sarah Teather said:

"It's fantastic to see that Achievement for All has had such impressive results. This shows just what can be achieved for children with SEND with strong school leadership, innovative thinking and close working with families.”

The programme is being delivered by a new charity, Achievement for All 3 As, supported by PwC. Brian Lamb, who headed the enquiry into SEN and now chairs the new charity, commented:

"The evaluation totally endorses Achievement for All's approach. For the first time we now have a proven intervention that can improve outcomes and change the lives of children and families. By adopting this approach schools can ensure that children with SEN have the chance to reach their full potential."

If you’re interested in finding out more about these brilliant results, you can visit Achievement for All’s website at The full report into the scheme’s progress is also available here.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Anti-bullying week: new research finds two-thirds of parents report bullying

It’s anti-bullying week this week, and new research has highlighted the extent to which bullying is a real and distressing part of the lives of young people with ASD.

The survey was carried out by author and campaigner Anna Kennedy. Anna has two sons, one with autism and one with Asperger syndrome, and after being turned away by a staggering 26 special schools she took matters into her own hands and founded her own school, Hillingdon Manor in Middlesex.

The survey was conducted online and generated over 900 responses from people affected by ASD including parents, carers and teachers. Disturbingly, 61% of parents reported that their child had been bullied at school because of their ASD, and of those 73% said the school had either ignored the problem or handled it poorly. The vast majority of parents – 93% – said that their child’s educational progress had been seriously affected by the bullying.

Commenting on the survey results, Anna said “I believe this is a national scandal … I urge the Government not to ignore this problem because it is not going away and is getting worse. We must increase the number of special needs schools or facilities within mainstream establishments if we are going to tackle it effectively.” She stressed that bullying can lead to further problems later on in life, adding “If we don’t do something now we will face much higher costs in the future when we have to care for those with ASC”.

Our own Great Expectations campaign has highlighted the need for better autism awareness in schools – staff need a good understanding of the issues young people with autism face, including their vulnerability to bullying. Our own survey also found that one in three young people would like their peers to have a better understanding of autism.

ChildLine has been working with Anna Kennedy to develop some new resources for its website. Children with autism, or those who have friends or family with the condition, can now access information and support online. Find the site at Anna Kennedy’s own website,, also offers a range of advice for families affected by autism.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

NAS supports Ambitious About Autism campaign for better post-16 education

The National Autistic Society is supporting Ambitious About Autism’s new campaign, ‘Finished at School: What next for young people with autism?’.

The campaign aims to secure more and better educational options for all young people with autism aged 16 – 25 to enable them to develop skills, gain employment, live more independently and ultimately live the life they choose.

Ambitious About Autism reports that currently, less than 1 in 4 people with autism carry on with education post-16. Their report highlights the lack of appropriate opportunities for young people with autism wishing to continue their education. Without further educational support, many young people struggle to enter into employment and community living.

The campaign calls for:

  • a clear legal right for educational support up to the age of 25 for young disabled people;
  • a funding system that gives young people and families more education, choice and support;
  • a cross-government focus on outcomes and destinations for young disabled people and
  • a further education workforce with the skills to support young people with autism.
The NAS is pleased to support Ambitious About Autism’s campaign. The post-16 transition period can be challenging for people with autism, and both charities have welcomed the proposal in the SEND Green Paper to extend Education, Health and Care Plans, which will replace statements  to age 25.

You can find out more information about the campaign by visiting and following the link. You can also sign an online pledge showing your support for the campaign, email your MP asking for their support, read the full Finished at School report, and share your own story.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Another key victory on the Education Bill!

As part of our work with Special Educational Consortium (SEC), the NAS has successfully persuaded the Government to revise an amendment to the Education Bill relating to direct payments. Initially, we were worried that the amendment would mean that if families accepted a direct payment, the local authority would no longer be obliged to follow their statutory duties and provide the services outlined in the child’s statement.

The NAS and SEC had strong objections to this, and we put pressure on the Department for Education to address our concerns. Thanks to our campaigning, revisions to the amendment mean that local authorities will not be allowed to neglect their statutory duties. The revisions also mean that families will have to give their written consent before they begin receiving direct payments – this is intended to make sure that people are made aware of their right to a full range of support.

This is a major improvement in the progress of the Bill, as it helps to ensure that children with SEN get the full range of support that they’re entitled to instead of their families being left with a direct payment only.

Friday, October 28, 2011

NAS Education Roadshow - First stop Liverpool!

On the 11th October our first Education Roadshow began its tour in Liverpool.

The event was part of a series of five regional one-day events to help teachers and other professionals learn the tools and strategies they need to support children with autism effectively.

Education is a fundamental part of every child's life, but far too many children with autism are not getting the education they need.

That's why The National Autistic Society, in association with Axcis Education Recruitment, developed the Education Roadshow.

You can watch videos from the event for FREE here, as well as read presentations from the top speakers. Just fill in your details on the page first.

The roadshow will be in Newcastle next on 8 November 2011. To find out more and to book, visit

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Keeping busy at the Conservative Party Conference

Last week, the NAS rounded off the conference season at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester.

On Sunday night, we hosted an exciting education fringe event alongside Ambitious About Autism The event was chaired by Cllr Colin Barrow CBE who talked about his experience of finding educational support for his own child, who has autism. Colin has just stood down as chair of trustees for the NAS and we are very pleased that he is continuing to be involved in the charity's work

Parent Debbie Waters also spoke at the event and highlighted her difficulties in finding the right support for her children. She said in choosing a school she had felt forced to choose between a happy child and an educated child, which she said, was "not a real choice to make".

Also at the event Karen Lumley MP stressed the importance of making funding fairer for children with special educational needs (SEN), while Leader of Solihull council Cllr Ken Meeson agreed that funding was a key issue. He also highlighted the need for earlier intervention for children with SEN. We also heard from other parents, people with autism, councillors, and Neil Parish MP.

Tuesday night was our Researchers’ Refuge event, which gave MPs’ researchers and caseworkers a chance to drop in for beer and snacks and have an informal chat about autism. We had fantastic discussions with them about how they can better support constituents who have autism and their families.

During the week we also went along to the Learning Disability Coalition’s table tennis event. Politicians including David Burrowes MP played table tennis with people with learning disabilities. It was a really useful event to get politicians talking to people with learning disabilities and autism.

All in all, the week was a great opportunity to influence the current Government into making the best choices for people with autism.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

New report from AET adds weight to NAS Great Expectations campaign

The National Autistic Society has welcomed a new report from the Autism Education Trust (AET) which calls for more ‘flexibility’ in the education of young people with autism.

The study consulted adults and children with autism, parents and education professionals via focus groups and interviews, and concluded that schools need to “aim higher for their students with autism”.

The report highlighted the central importance of involving and consulting with young people with autism about their progress and aspirations.

The study also talked about the need for teachers to combine the National Curriculum with training in social and independent living skills, and calls for written guidance from the Department for Education to help make sure this happens.

Many young people in the study felt that more time spent discussing their diagnosis would help them feel more comfortable in social settings, which could help reduce bullying.

The report also calls for better communication amongst members of staff, and for an “autism expert” to be available in schools. This expert would be able to provide better support for children with autism, and also be consulted on issues such as exclusion.

The findings add weight  to the key demands from our Great Expectations campaign, including a need to improve teachers’ understanding of autism, and to support young people socially as well as academically.

Speaking at our event at the recent Conservative Party Conference, Debbie Waters a parent of two children with autism told us she’d felt forced to choose between an educated child and a happy child – which was “no choice to make”.

In order to provide the best possible outcomes for young people with autism, both academically and emotionally, it’s clear that schools need to be ensure that they are looking at all of a child’s needs

You can read the full report from the AET at

Monday, October 10, 2011

Legal questions on academies? New blog published

Do you have legal questions on academies or free schools? SEN lawyer David Wolfe has set up a new blog answering commonly asked questions, including questions about SEN.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Major victory on Education Bill!

Following pressure from the National Autistic Society and other charities, the Government has backed down on removing the requirement for schools to co-operate with other services to make sure children’s needs are prioritised.

As the Bill goes through Parliament, The National Autistic Society has been working hard with colleagues in the Special Educational Consortium.  As a result of our efforts, the Government has tabled an amendment to the Bill which will remove the clause we were particularly concerned about.

This means schools will have to work with other services in their area and co-operate to improve children’s wellbeing locally.

This latest victory builds on a history of successes for the Special Education Consortium, of which the NAS is a leading member.  These include making sure legal aid continues to be available for SEN cases, ensuring the legal SEN rights apply to academies and free schools, and extending funding for specialist SEN support services.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

NAS education roadshow rocks into Liverpool!

The National Autistic Society, in association with Axcis Education Recruitment, has developed a series of five regional roadshows on education to help teachers and other autism professionals to learn the tools and strategies they need to support children with autism effectively.

Featuring a range of expert speakers, the first NAS roadshow is in Liverpool on 11 October.

Dr Steve Huggett, Director, Autism Education Trust will be presenting on Outcomes, standards and good practice with children and young people with autism in the context of the SEN Green Paper”.
Kay Ribbons, an adult with autism from Chester, will also be speaking at the event, providing a personal perspective of her experience of school whilst undiagnosed. 

Kay said: “For me, growing up as a child with autism without a diagnosis was extremely challenging and emotional.  Since receiving my diagnosis as an adult it has helped to provide clarity on my younger years and I am now able to come to terms with some of difficulties I faced.  I now want raise awareness of growing up with a hidden disability and help other children with autism have a better experience at school and at home.”

With expert speakers, workshops, a stimulating panel debate and plenty of networking opportunities, this event is a great opportunity to gain crucial knowledge about how teachers can best support children with autism.

If you can't make it, don't worry!  Axcis Education Recruitment are giving you the chance to watch the event live online completely free of charge - all you need is a computer and internet access. Go to and register some basic contact details to get access.

The dates for the other 4 roadshows are:

Monday, October 3, 2011

Important conversations at the Labour party conference

Members of our policy and campaigns team had a busy and productive week at the Labour party conference.

It was standing room only at our cocktails and conversations event on Tuesday, which we organised joinlty with Ambitious About Autism . The event was hosted by Sally Bercow, Parent Patron of Ambitious About Autism. Ralph, one of the NAS' Young Campaigners, gave a brilliant speech about his experiences with the education system and the difficulties he and his brother had faced in getting proper support. We also heard from our key speaker Sharon Hodgson MP, the Shadow Minister for Education.

There was plenty of lively discussion at the event, thanks to our table hosts who included MPs Rob Flello, Jonathan Reynolds and Angela Smith, working alongside leading councillors, Labour party delegates, parents and people with autism. Major discussion topics included the need for more choice in school placements, and the need for more extensive provision post-16.

Throughout the week we met with lots of MPs who were interested in engaging more with our campaigns; many asked to visit our schools and pledged to find out more about local provision available in their constituencies.

Many MPs told us they were proud of the work they’d done in Government, but that plenty of work still needed to be done. The conference was a great way for us to get some commitments from MPs, and advise them on how to work in their constituencies and Parliament to improve the lives of people affected by autism across the UK.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Blog recommendation: James Cusack

James, who has worked closely with us on our campaign for an autism bill in Scotland, has started his own blog. His first entry talks about how teachers’ awareness of autism has improved over the last twenty years.

You can read James’ blog at

Friday, September 23, 2011

NAS at the Lib Dem party conference

The NAS policy and campaigns team have had an exciting week at the Liberal Democrat party conference, discussing education issues with key party members.

On Sunday night, we hosted an education event with Ambitious About Autism, bringing together politicians and parents of children with autism. The Minister for Children and Families Sarah Teather MP and Liberal Democrat Party President Tim Farron MP both spoke to a packed room and engaged in a lively and interesting debate on SEN issues.

We engaged with an impressive 17 Lib Dem MPs and Lords, making new parliamentary friends and updating long-term champions who regularly raise issues affecting people with autism.

We talked with Simon Wright MP about the rights of pupils without SEN statements, and discussed school transport with Tom Brake MP. Jenny Willot MP is now planning to visit one of our NAS schools, whilst Dan Rogerson MP has agreed to ask questions in Parliament about access to speech and language therapists.

Lots of the politicians we spoke to had first hand experience of autism – whether through their own families, friends or constituents.  This was a great opportunity for us to advise them on how best they can improve the lives of everyone affected and make sure autism stays on the Government’s agenda. 

We got lots of commitments from MPs and we’ll make sure they stick to them!

Parliament debates post-16 transition for disabled young people

Stephen Lloyd MP recently tabled a debate in Parliament on support for disabled young people.

The debate aimed to focus particularly on transition post-16 for young people with a disability.

Mr Lloyd drew on the National Autistic Society’s Make School Make Sense campaign to talk about this.

He pointed to statistics in the campaign report that found that although it’s a legal obligation for young people with disabilities to have a transition plan, only 53% of young people with statements actually receive them. According to the report, this figure is only 34% in mainstream schools, and 45% of those who participated in transition planning were dissatisfied with the process.

Mr Lloyd also questioned the recent closure of support programmes, and called for provision of key workers to co-ordinate services post-16.

Kate Green MP raised the issue of the loss of Education Maintencance Allowance and the Connexions service, and asked whether the Government is assessing the impact of this on disabled young people.

Much of the rest of the debate focused on concerns around benefit changes and most notably, the changes to Disability Living Allowance (DLA), which currently focus on adult DLA. The NAS is working hard on the proposed changes to adult DLA. To find out more go to

Responding to the debate, Disabilities Minister Maria Miller agreed that post-16 provision needed to be more joined-up. She said that the proposed changes to the SEN system would mean that young people with a disability, would be able to access an Education, Health and Care Plan, which will replace statements, up to the age of 25.

The National Autistic Society has welcomed the proposal to extend these plans to the age of 25. However, we are also working to ensure that those with SEN who do not have an Education, Health and Care Plan or statement can also access the support they need.

Friday, September 9, 2011

NAS schools highlighted in Parliamentary debate

On Tuesday 6th September, Annette Brooke MP secured a debate in Parliament on the importance of non-maintained and independent special schools (NMISS). She called for greater recognition of their role as reforms to special educational needs are taken forward.

She commended the “excellent specialist provision” provided by the sector, and pointed out that the National Autistic Society runs six independent special schools - all of which are recognised as excellent.

The NAS, along with the National Association of Independent and Non-Maintained Schools (NASS), believes that the Government’s Green Paper on SEN provision overlooks the role of NMISS; Annette Brooke raises several of these concerns.

She noted that the Green Paper offers parents the right to express a preference for any state-funded school, but does not extend this right to NMISS. She proposed that this may be based on a misconception that NMISS placements are always the most expensive option, and called for more research into the cost-effectiveness of the sector.

Sarah Teather (Minister of State for Children and Families) stressed that the Government was still gathering views on the Green Paper proposal, and encouraged members of the NMISS sector to submit any evidence they have relating to cost-effectiveness.

She said Independent and non-maintained special schools play a valuable role in supporting some of our most vulnerable children and young people, many of whom have very complex needs, and they also have considerable expertise to offer other schools”.

The NAS believes that the wide spectrum of needs among children with autism requires a wide spectrum of educational provision, including mainstream schools, special schools, specialist units attached to mainstream schools and residential provision. The key thing in any of these settings in access to autism expertise. 

Read our position statement on inclusion on our website.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Autism Education Trust highlights importance of staff training

The NAS welcomes a new piece of research published by the Autism Education Trust (AET). The AET looked in detail at sixteen schools which are considered to demonstrate good practice in educating young people with autism. The sample included special and mainstream schools, and provision from early years up to 19-year-olds.

The research found that staff at these good practice schools were highly motivated and very well-trained. The heads and senior leadership of the schools had a thorough understanding of autism, and appreciated the role of staff in allowing their pupils to achieve well. Regular training was a feature for all staff, from senior leaders through to administrators and school bus drivers. Many schools also shared their experience with other schools in the area.

The good practice schools also focused on developing strong relationships with pupils and their families, listening to pupils’ own opinions on their learning and activities. They also understood that the education requirements for children with autism are much broader than for those without autism.

The NAS’ Great Expectations survey also demonstrated the importance of training for education professionals. We found that only 53% of children feel happy at school generally, but this rises to 86% when they feel their teacher has a good understanding of autism.

The AET’s findings reinforce the point that with the right training, teachers can  feel confident about supporting children with autism and provide them with outstanding education.

You can read more about Great Expectations at

Friday, August 26, 2011

Ofsted: disabled young people need more help after school

Ofsted have todaybrought out a new report, Progression post-16 for learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. It finds that some young disabled people struggle to get effective support after school to help them into employment, further study, and living independently.

Ofsted carried out case studies in 32 colleges, independent learning providers and local authority providers of adult and community learning. It found that while the transition arrangements in most colleges and work-based learning providers work well, local authorities (LAs) perform much more poorly. Providers had received a learning difficulties assessment from the LA in only a third of the case studies, and these were not always timely or based on an objective assessment of need.

In the report Ofsted makes a number of recommendations to improve support in the future.

The full report can be found along with a summary at

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Department for Education releases school exclusion figures

 The Department for Education have just published their school exclusion statistics for 2009-10. These figures measure the numbers of permanent and fixed-term exclusions in primary and secondary schools in the last academic year.

 Compared to pupils with no SEN, those with a statement of SEN are around eight times more likely to receive a permanent exclusion and six times more likely to receive a fixed-term exclusion. Although rates remain high, the percentage of pupils with SEN who have been permanently excluded has decreased by 0.04% since 2008-09.

The NAS is concerned about high levels of exclusion amongst children with SEN – 17% of children in our Great Expectations survey had been suspended from school. It’s also important to note that the Department for Education’s figures do not include informal exclusions, where a child is sent home without being ill or officially excluded. One in three parents in our survey had experienced this at some point.

 Through our campaign, the NAS wants to ensure that parents have support when challenging the system on behalf of their children, and for local authorities to have enough information about the needs of children with autism in their area to plan effective support.  We welcome the fact that the Government’s SEN Green Paper says that where a pupil faces exclusion, multi-agency assessments will be piloted to see whether they help identify any factors behind this, such as unidentified SEN, as this is something that the NAS has called for over many years.

 A summary of the Department for Education’s figures and a full PDF download are available at

Friday, August 12, 2011

Share your experiences of SEN provision at academies

The Academies Act 2010 specifies that the existing SEN framework does apply to academies, as the agreement that the school signs with the Secretary of State for Education in order to become an academy (called a “funding agreement”) will say that the academy has to adhere to Part 4 of the Education Act 1996. 

However, with the Government’s drive to increase the number of schools which have academy status, more and more parents are asking about academies and their duty to make provision for children with SEN, and a number of common issues are emerging.

IPSEA, a charity which provides advice to families of children with special educational needs, has launched a survey to find out more about what is happening as schools become academies. The survey has just 8 questions and should only take a few minutes to complete.  IPSEA will use your feedback to produce resources that will help with common issues.

Friday, August 5, 2011

“Don't let disabled children pay the price for welfare reform”: sign our petition

The Government have announced plans for a substantial cut to welfare support for disabled children under the Universal Credit.  The new system will result in many of these children losing up to £1400 per year (£27 per week) compared to the current system - by the time a disabled child reaches 16, this could cost the family £22,000.

In total the Government estimates that 100,000 disabled children would lose out under this change - other estimates suggest the number could be considerably higher. 

Financial support is crucial to help these families with the costs of raising a disabled child and manage their extra caring responsibilities.  £27 is more than half the average family’s food budget - enough to mean the difference between a family meeting their child’s basic needs, and being left simply unable to cope.

We have joined forces with 24 other major charities and other organisations to call on the Government to change these damaging plans.    

Please take action with us by:
> Promoting our campaign on your facebook, linked in and twitter accounts

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Have your say on post-16 education!

The National Audit Office (NAO), an influential independent Government body, has launched a study into educational provision for people between the ages of 16-25 with a special educational need (SEN).

As part of their research, they have launched a survey for people with knowledge or experience of 16-25 education for those with SEN.

The study will look at how central and local government make decisions on provision for this age group.

It will also look closely at whether value for money is being achieved in the current system.

The NAO is an extremely influential organisation, responsible for auditing government bodies. Their recommendations are often taken forward into government policy. This research is particularly timely given that the SEN Green Paper sets out that educational, health and care plans, which will replace statements, will be available up to the age of 25.

We want to ensure that the views of those affected by autism are represented in the report. Therefore if you have knowledge or experience of special educational needs provision for 16-25 year olds, please do respond to the survey

The NAO are keen to hear from a range of stakeholders in the issue, whether a young person with SEN, a parent or a professional with relevant experience. More information can be found on the NAO’s website. To go directly to the survey, click here

Friday, July 15, 2011

Children's Commissioner issues call for evidence

Dr Maggie Atkinson, Children’s Commissioner for England, today launched an inquiry into school exclusions. She issued a public call for evidence, and will examine questions related to the issue such as:
  • What are the key reasons why some children are more likely than others in their peer groups to be excluded?
  • How in your view should the inequalities seen in the figures for exclusions be addressed?
  • How effective do you consider provision aimed at preventing permanent exclusions is, particularly where any such provision is actively targeted at groups most likely to be excluded?
The commission is particularly interested in hearing examples of good practice in the management of children at risk of exclusion, and in reducing the variations in exclusion rates between different groups.

Over a quarter (27%) of children with autism have been excluded from school at some point and most of these (23%) have been more than once. This compares to just 4% of other children. The NAS welcomes the Children’s Commissioner’s concern about these issues and hopes that the inquiry will be able to make practical recommendations which will reduce the levels of exclusions for children with autism.

Evidence is welcomed from adults or children, and can be submitted by emailing by Wednesday 5th October 2011. The adult version of the call for evidence can be downloaded here, and the children’s and young people’s version can be downloaded here

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Celebrities support Great Expectations!

Jarvis Cocker, Adam Buxton, Harry Hill and Jonny Borrell have all pledged support to our new campaign Great Expectations.

They have recorded short clips for us expressing their support.

Please go to: to watch the clips.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Great Expectations launches in Parliament

Yesterday saw the successful launch of our new campaign Great Expectations in Parliament.

NAS President Jane Asher (pictured) reflected on the struggles parents had to get the help their children needed at school. She stressed how important it was to get help in early and how much money this could save in the long run.

Disabilities Minister Maria Miller responded to the campaign on behalf of the Government. She said that the special educational needs (SEN) "system was broken" and that the Government were determined to fix it through proposals set out in the SEN Green Paper.

She also said that getting support in place for children with autism was in her experience a particular battle. Some schools were able to be fully inclusive of children on the spectrum, so others should be able to do it too. At the moment, being able to access the right support seemed to be based on luck, she added.

Shadow Education Secretary Andy Burnham stressed the importance of cross party working on SEN reforms to make sure that Government got the reforms right. He noted the success of cross party working on the Autism Act.

Two parents of children with autism also spoke at the event about their experiences of having to fight the system. Sadly, the research we carried out for the campaign showed that their experiences were all too common.  The research, based on survey responses from over 1,000 children with autism and parents and focus groups accross the country, showed:
- 48% of parents say they have waited over a year to get the right support for their child, and 27% have waited more than two years.

- 18% of parents have had to take legal action to get the right support for their children, and have been to tribunal an average of 3.5 times each
- Just half of parents (52%) feel their child is making good educational progress.
- 43% of young people feel teachers don’t know enough about autism.

The campaign calls for a system in which parents are treated as equal partners and genuinely involved in decisions about their child’s education and the planning of local services, and for all children with autism to be able to get the support they need quickly and easily, from teachers who understand how to support them.

The event was hosted by the vice chair of the all party parliamentary group on autism Steve Brine MP. It was well attended - the room was full of MPs, peers, parents of children with autism, children with autism and professionals. 

The NAS is calling on all MPs and peers to support the campaign and help ensure that we use the Government's proposed reforms of the SEN system as an opportunity to get things right for children with autism. Please support the campaign, by emailing your MP.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Great Expectations: The NAS' new campaign on autism and education

Today The National Autistic Society launches a new campaign, Great Expectations , to end the battle many parents face trying to get the right education for their child, and we need your help.

The Government is planning the biggest overhaul of the SEN system for 30 years. The Great Expectations campaign aims to make sure we take this opportunity to make the changes to the system that children with autism and their parents want. We have great expectations for an education system which works for every child with autism. 

The campaign report, published today, is based on research with over 1,000 children with autism and parents. Our research found that:

·         48% of parents say they have waited over a year to get the right support for their child, and 27% have waited more than two years.
·         18% of parents have had to take legal action to get the right support for their children, and have been to tribunal an average of 3.5 times each.
·         Just half of parents (52%) feel their child is making good educational progress.
·         43% of young people feel teachers don’t know enough about autism. 

The campaign will be launched in Parliament this evening at a reception expecting to attract around 80 MPs, including the Disability Minister, Maria Miller and Shadow Education Secretary, Andy Burnham.

The NAS is calling for a system in which parents are treated as equal partners and genuinely involved in decisions about their child’s education and the planning of local services, and for all children with autism to be able to get the support they need quickly and easily, from teachers who understand how to support them.

We need your help.

You can support the campaign, by emailing your MP to ask them to raise these issues in parliament. To find out more about the campaign, and other ways you can get involved, visit the campaign homepage .

The Government’s reforms will shape the future of a generation of children with autism.

·         Children with autism expect an education that sets them up for life
·         Parents expect a system that works with, not against, them
·         We expect the Government to listen, and to act.

Let’s work together. Let’s get it right.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Good news on legal aid

Following campaigning by the NAS alongside a range of other organisations who are part of the Special Education Consortium (SEC), the Government has reversed its decision to remove legal aid for SEN cases.
Announcing the publication of the Legal Aid and Sentancing Bill on 21st June, Justice Minister Ken Clark stated clearly that he had decided to protect legal aid for SEN cases.
The legal aid scheme provides free legal support to the poorest parents appealing to the Tribunal against decisions made by local authorities in England about the additional support their child gets.
Parents can receive legal advice in preparing a case and also legal representation at the Upper-tier Tribunal (which is the equivalent of the High Court).
Legal aid also allows parents to purchase the independent reports needed to support their evidence to the Tribunal. The eligibility criteria for legal aid is both means tested and based on a merits test that considers the chances of a claim succeeding and the resources at stake.
For more information and advice on preparing for Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunals, contact our education rights service on 0808 8004102 or see:

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Shape our new education campaign

The next national campaign from the NAS will ensure the needs of children with autism and their families are addressed in the Government's new vision for special education needs (SEN) and disability (see post dated 10 March 2011).

To develop this campaign, we have launched a new consultation discussion group.  We want to hear from you on a range of topics, from the campaigns aims and recommendations, the campaign title and the resources we produce.

To take part in shaping the campaign, sign up to the community here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Campaigning successes on exclusions

The National Autistic Society (NAS), along with other members of the Special Educational Consortium (SEC), has been campaigning on the proposed reforms set out in the Education Bill.

We had particular concerns about proposals in the Bill in relation to exclusions. The Bill proposes replacing Independent Appeals Panels (IAPs) who currently review decisions on exclusions with new Review Panels.

Unlike IAPs, the Review Panels will not have the power to reinstate students who have been excluded if they feel that they were wrongfully so. We were also concerned about the knowledge and understanding of autism and other Special Educational Needs (SEN) among members of the Review Panels.

These reforms apply to England only.

Following campaigning from the NAS and the SEC, the Government has made the following commitments on exclusion:

  • The SEN Tribunal will hear disability discrimination cases where a child has been permanently excluded and re-instatement will be a possible remedy in these cases;
  • Revised statutory guidance on exclusions will explicitly state the need for Governors to take special educational needs into account when reviewing the decision to exclude;
  • Parents will be able to request that an SEN expert attend the review panel; and
  • Using risk of exclusion as a trigger for a multi-agency assessment of need will be included in guidance
The NAS has continuing concerns on the specifics of these commitments. For instance, who will be the SEN expert that sits on a Review Panel? We also remain concerned about who the statutory guidance will apply to and how it will be monitored and enforced.

Let us know what you think of the changes in the box below.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Calling all young people at school!

We want to hear from children and young people about what you think about school. We want to know what you like and dislike about school and how you think it could be better.

If you are 19 or younger and are on the autism spectrum and still at school, you can fill out our survey by clicking here.

The survey is open until the end of Wednesday 6th April.

We will use the findings of the survey to help us to campaign to improve education provision for children and young people with autism and tell the Government what you think about school and about their proposals to change the SEN system.  We will publish a report later in the year containing the findings of our research.

We also have a survey of parents of children and young people with autism which is available to members of the NAS.  To join the NAS follow this link:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

SEN Green Paper Published

The National Autistic Society has welcomed the ambitions set out in Government’s Green Paper Support and aspiration: a new approach to special educational needs and disability. 

The Green Paper sets out the Government’s proposals for reforming the education system for children with special educational needs (SEN). The Government wants to hear your views on the plans. See below on how you can have your say.

The National Autistic Society will be looking carefully at the proposals and consulting with its members and others to respond. We will also be launching a mini report on how the SEN system should work for children with autism in the summer. Watch this space for more details.

Below is a summary of some of the key points from the Green Paper.

Early identification and assessment
The Government proposes replacing statements of SEN with ‘Education, Health and Care Plans’, which would be determined through a single assessment.

The Government has said that these plans will provide the same statutory protection to parents as statements and that these plans will be for children with SEN or a disability from birth until the age of 25.

How the assessment for these plans and how the plans themselves are to work will be piloted from September. The National Autistic Society is keen to see how the proposal will work in practice and how the Government will ensure that the same legal protections are in place. The Government have said that replacing statements with the new plans will not happen until 2014.

The paper also talks about ensuring that children with SEN are picked up earlier. We have been calling for an early identification check to ensure that children with autism can be identified at an early stage and so we are keen to work further with Government on this.

Giving Parents Control
The Green Paper stresses the importance of consulting and involved in decisions concerning their child’s needs. It makes the following proposals:
  • Local authorities and other services to set out a local offer of all services available
  • The option of a ‘Personal Budget’ by 2014 for all families with children with a statement of SEN or a new ‘Education, Health and Care Plan’ to give parents greater choice over the services their child receives. This is to be piloted first
  • Parents to be given a clear choice of school, including mainstream, special, academies and free schools.
  • Parents to continue to have access to a short break from caring while their child enjoys activities with their peers.
  • If local authorities and parents disagree, mediation is tried first, before going to a tribunal.
Learning and achieving
This section has a welcome focus on the importance of improving the support teachers have to ensure that they can identify and appropriately help children with SEN.

The National Autistic Society has been calling for initial teacher training to include autism as well as for schools to be able to access support from specialist autism teachers across clusters of schools.

In line with this, the Green Paper sets out:
  • Funding will be available for scholarships and continuing professional development for teachers developing skills in supporting children with SEN
  • The Government will help local networks of schools develop teachers with specialist skills and knowledge who can be deployed across local clusters of schools
  • The Training and Development Agency will make sure that online materials for teachers on autism are widely available
  • Special Schools will be expected to share their expertise and services to support the education and progress and development of pupils in other special and mainstream schools.
  • Outstanding special schools will be able to apply to become Teaching Schools, and more teachers will do initial training in special schools
The paper also says that parents and communities are encouraged to establish new special free schools.

Preparing for adulthood
A significant proposal in the Green Paper is the extension of the Education, Health and Care Plans, which are to replace statements for young people up to the age of 25.

The Green Paper also highlights the importance of ensuring that young people with a disability are supported into work and that work experience is made available for them.

Further detail about the Governments plans for improving transition will be published later this year. The Government says that it wants to ensure that by 2015 disabled young people and young people with SEN will have:
  • early and well integrated support for and advice on the birth to 25 single assessment process.
  • access to better quality vocational and work related learning opportunities to enable young people to progress in their learning post 16.
  • good opportunities and support in order to get and keep a job
  • a well co-ordained transition from children’s to adult health services
Services Working Together for Families
Joint working across health, social care and education is a strong focus in the Green Paper.

The Government proposes that local authorities play a pivotal role in ensuring the co-ordination in support for children with SEN, both on an individual level and on a strategic planning level.

There are also proposals to fund training for key workers and to review the training for speech and language therapists and educational psychologists.

The Chapter also states that the Government will look at how best to co-ordinate services once the GP consortia are in place and new Health and Wellbeing Boards are given responsibility for planning local services.

Have your say
The Government wants to hear what you think of the proposals. You can respond online at or emailed to, or by downloading a response form which should be completed and sent to:

Consultation Unit
Department for Education
Area 1C, Castle View House
East Lane
Runcorn WA7 2GJ

Please also let us know what you think by commenting in the box below or by emailing