Tuesday, July 17, 2012

“The Right Start”: The All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism launches recommendations for reform of Special Educational Needs

On the 11th July, members of the policy and campaigns team at the NAS met with MPs, Peers and experts in autism at The House of Commons to celebrate the publication of "The Right Start", the APPGA report into autism in schools. The report recommends better special educational needs training for teachers, designating a lead teacher for autism in every school and involving young people with autism and their parents more in the development of their educational support. It also states that children with or without statements should be assured of access to the new Education, Health and Care Plan, and that SEN provision should extend up to the age of 25 in order to facilitate the transition from school into training, further education and employment. The APPGA’s full findings and recommendations are available here.

Children and Families Minister Sarah Teather spoke about plans to train teachers in SEN through online materials and scholarship programmes. She highlighted the role of the Pathfinder pilot scheme in testing personalised support for students, and the Achievement for All programme in helping teachers to better engage with parents when planning a child’s educational needs. Ms Teather said that involving young people and their parents was “the whole spirit” of the reforms to SEN, and emphasised that the replacement of statements with the ECHP was “intended to involve families much better right from the beginning to ensure that support is in place right from the earliest point”. Speaking of the educational reforms as a whole, she said “we are very serious about getting the detail right.”

The Minister’s address was followed by speeches from Ambitious about Autism’s youth patron Josie Ryan, and The National Autistic Society’s young campaigner Jacob Denness. Speaking from her own experiences, Josie strongly endorsed more input by parents and young people into their educational support: “I know what it feels like to be the invisible one in a mainstream school surrounded by teachers who have no idea. I also know what it’s like to have a teacher who points out everything I can do and am good at, not what I can’t do.” Jacob called on MPs “to be pushy for people with autism in your constituency. We have taken the first steps to helping every autistic child or autistic person and it is up to you to push for those steps to continue.” Robert Buckland MP, Chair of the APPGA, made closing remarks in which he thanked the Minister and the speakers for their contributions, and expressed a hope that the reforms would “empower and enable young people with autism and related conditions to thrive in the school and college environment.”

We hope that the Government will continue to commit to getting the detail of SEN reform right, and will adopt the report’s recommendations in the forthcoming Children and Families Bill to help create a more efficient, more effective and more supportive educational experience for children and young people with autism.

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