Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The National Autistic Society campaigns to ensure that every child and young person with autism has access to the right support to enable them to learn and realise their ambitions, in the same way as their peers, through our Great Expectations campaign, through the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Autism, and as a member of the Special Educational Consortium.

Too many children with autism are being let down by special educational needs (SEN) provision in England and are struggling to access the support they need.

The Government has committed to reforming the current system for children and young people with the aim of providing a more coherent, joined up approach to meeting children’s needs and ending the battle parents so often face.

The draft legislation, published at the beginning of September, marks the biggest change to the SEN system in over thirty years, so the NAS wants to ensure that these proposals work for all children and young people with autism in education.

Positive aspects of the reforms include: 

  • Assurances that the new Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) will offer the same protections as statements of special educational needs 
  • Extend SEN law to cover academies and free schools  
  • Extend the system to cover young people in further education up to the age of 25

However, we believe these reforms must lead to significant improvements on the current situation for all children with autism, so that they get the support they need and parents no longer have to fight to get it.

The Education Select Committee is now examining the draft legislation in detail.  At this point in time, the legislation is only in draft and it will take over a year for the changes to become law. You can read what it says here:

You can write to the Education Select Committee to tell them your views on the draft legislation.  They have various questions they want views on, including:

  • Does the draft Bill meet the Government’s policy objective to improve provision for children with SEN and/or disabilities?   
  •  Will the Bill succeed in cutting red tape and delays in giving early specialist support for children and young people with SEN and/or disabilities?   
  •  Do the provisions achieve the aim of integrated planning and assessment across agencies? 
  • Do the provisions set out for 19 to 25 year olds provide a suitable balance between rights, protection, and flexibility? 
  •  Is there anything missing from the draft Bill?

The Education Committee has asked for evidence to be submitted by noon on 11 October 2012 at the latest and earlier if possible.

The NAS believes that the legislation can be strengthened in a number of ways to ensure that the new system will work better.  Some things you might like to mention in your response include:

  • Changes to the SEN system must ensure that all children with autism have access to the specialist support that they need at school, even without an EHCP. In a survey carried out for this year’s Great Expectations campaign, the NAS found that only 65% of parents surveyed said their child with autism had a statement
  •  There need to continue to be clear rights for parents set out in the legislation so they can get the support their child needs  
  • Before the final SEN Code of Practice is published, the Government must consult on it and Parliament must have the opportunity to examine it. 
  •  The draft legislation creates a “local offer” where Local Authorities will set out what support they expect to be available for children with SEN. This must be clear enough that parents know they can get the support and services their child needs.  This should include being able to use it in tribunals 
  • The draft provisions suggest that EHCPs could cease where educational outcomes are achieved. This could create the incentive to set low targets, which could limit children and young people’s ability to realise their aspirations 
  • Parents of children with EHCPs can express a preference for any state-funded school, however it needs to be made clear that this extends to independent special schools, which often provide the most specialist support
  •  The Bill should also ensure that a young person with autism who leaves education to enter employment, or some other reason, can once again access support if they decide to return to education.

Submissions should be sent by email to with the subject “Pre-legislative scrutiny: SEN.”

You can find more guidance about how to respond to the Committee on their website:

Many thanks for your help!