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.