Wednesday, February 9, 2011

MPs highlight impact of Education Bill on children with autism

Yesterday, the Education Bill was debated for the first time in Parliament. The Bill will implement some sections of the education white paper, published in December.

We briefed MPs on the Bill, before it was debated and as a result, the impact of the Bill on children with autism was raised a number of times during the debate.
In particular, we had expressed concerns about the replacement of Independent Appeal Panels for exclusions with Review Panels, which would not have the power to reinstate children who had been permanently excluded.

A number of MPs highlighted the disproportionate number of children with autism who have been excluded. Conservative MP Richard Fuller said that the high number of exclusions of children with autism needed more attention.

Shadow Education Secretary Andy Burnham said, “Parents of children with disabilities and special needs already face a battle to get them a good education. With changes to admissions and exclusions, which will see schools become judge and jury, the Bill stacks the odds against those children even further”.

Education Minister Nick Gibb responded that parents would still have the right of appeal on exclusions.

Joined-up working
The NAS are also particularly concerned that the Bill removes the duty on schools to co-operate with other local agencies.

We also oppose the Government’s earlier decision to remove the duty on local authorities to develop a Children and Young People’s Plan.

Liberal Democrat MP Annette Brooke stressed the importance of these plans and of joined up working between education, health and social care, particularly for those with complex needs, such as autism.

We look forward to the imminent publication of the Special Educational Needs (SEN) Green Paper to determine further how the Government intends its educational reforms to impact on children with SEN.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Education Select Committee publishes report on Behaviour

The National Autistic Society has welcomed the report from the Education Select Committee on behaviour and discipline in schools.

Director of Education at the NAS Jane Vaughan gave evidence to the Committee to feed into the report. We also submitted written evidence to the Committee.

The NAS is particularly pleased that a number of key points that Jane made in her oral evidence were reflected in the report and its recommendations, including:

Ø       The importance of ensuring that all school staff have training in autism. The report recommends that all schools should ensure that their staff can identify special educational needs (SEN) and that teachers should receive SEN training as part of their initial teacher training.

The NAS believes that this is fundamental to improving provision for children with autism. We also believe that all schools should be able to receive support from autism specialist teachers who should be employed to work across clusters of schools.

Ø       The importance of ensuring that behaviour related to autism is not mistaken for bad behaviour. The report recommends that exclusion is used as a trigger for assessing the needs of a child.

This is something we have been calling for, for some years and we would urge the Government to adopt this policy.

Ø       The importance of focusing on engaging with a child’s learning and the support they need to learn rather than the behaviour itself. The report recommends that schools ensure that they are providing appropriate support to a child so that they can get the most out of their education.

We also welcome the following conclusions and recommendations from the report:

  • Guidance on restraint needs to include advice on SEN and the current requirement to inform parents when their child has been restrained at school is important. 

  • Independent Appeals Panels for exclusions should be retained

  • The Government’s plans to introduce a phonics reading test at age 6 to identify learning problems should be expanded to look also at language comprehension

  • The Inclusion Development Programme (IDP), which was a Government funded project which included the development of resources on autism for teachers, should be refreshed and disseminated

  • Local authorities should retain responsibility for some local specialist services that provide support to schools around special educational needs. This may include educational psychology or autism outreach teams.
The National Autistic Society will be putting pressure on the Government to accept this findings and recommendations in the lead up to the publication of the Green Paper on SEN, expected later this month.

Click here to read the report