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.