• Our joint report on education with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism (APPGA) was debated in the House of Commons on 6th February
  • The report was welcomed by SEN Minister Nadhim Zahawi who agreed to:
    - Look in more detail at the report to address the challenges in the education system 
    - Continuing to work with the Autism Education Trust to make sure autism training is delivered across the education system in England
    - A review on exclusions that would include looking at children on the autism spectrum and how to make sure schools has ‘an inclusive ethos’
  • Maria Caulfield MP, who alongside Huw Merriman MP co-chaired the inquiry into autism and education that led to the report brought forward the debate
  • Our Held Back campaign calls on Government to take forward the recommendations of the report.
  • As part of the campaign over 20,000 people, including 80 Parliamentarians have signed an open letter to the Secretary of State calling for a national autism and education strategy

 

 SEN Minister Nadhim Zahawi MP yesterday welcomed the joint report of our charity with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism’s (APPGA)

on autism and education, which was launched in Parliament last week.

Speaking in an adjournment debate, the Minister committed to looking at the report in more detail as the Government made plans for ensuring the effective implementation of the Children and Families Act 2014 and the 0-25 SEND code of practice. 

Our report had highlighted real challenges in the system, which meant that parents were having to fight too hard and wait too long to get help for their child in school. 

A previous letter from the Department of Education has confirmed that the department will be responding to our report in due course and we will be continuing to press the Government to implement the report’s recommendations in Parliament. 

The Minister also said he agreed that more needed to be done to ensure the training of school staff in autism. He confirmed government were currently in discussions to extend the Autism Education Trust contract to deliver autism training to existing education staff in early years settings, as well as in schools and colleges.

On exclusions, he re-confirmed that a review was on-going and said it was “important that schools have an inclusive ethos, and they have a duty under the SEND code of practice to ensure that pupils with SEN are able to engage in the school’s activities alongside pupils who do not have SEN”. 

Maria Caulfield MP, who alongside Huw Merriman MP co-chaired the inquiry into autism and education that led to the report brought forward the debate. She opened by talking about the challenges in getting a diagnosis, noting it was often missed or delayed. 

She then moved on to problems in the education system, “the lack of support that [children on the autism spectrum] receive in our schools and education system is shocking, and teachers, who desperately want to help, can feel inadequate and unable to offer support because they have had little or no training.”
Whilst she welcomed the fact initial teacher training will include dealing with children on the autistic spectrum, she felt it would not tackle the lack of training for existing teachers and headteachers.

Over 20,000 people, including 80 Parliamentarians, have signed an open letter to the Secretary of State calling for a national autism and education strategy, and in summarising her speech Maria said: 

“As the 10-year anniversary of the Autism Act approaches, we need a national autism and education strategy to help children and young people, to ensure that the current laws are upheld, and to make sure that all autistic children receive the help to which they are legally entitled” 
 
Adjournment Debates are short debates held at the end of the Parliamentary day. They can only feature speeches from the proposer and a reply from the Minister, there is also no vote on an adjournment debate, meaning attendance at these debates if often low. 

However, other MPs can make short points, or ‘interventions’ as they’re called in Parliament. A number of MPs chose to do so, showing that this is a big issue for MPs. 

Chair of the APPGA, the Rt Hon Dame Cheryl Gillan MP, echoed Maria’s calls on the training of all school staff and said that Ofsted inspectors should also get training in autism so they can adequately evaluate how the school is supporting those children. 

Robert Courts MP said that the system needs to do more to support parents who are going through this process. Jim Shannon MP said that with more people being diagnosed with autism, we need an increase in services and provision, Bambos Charalambous MP called for an increase in specialised support workers and Melanie Onn MP said that a serious look needed to be taken on how our system of exclusions affects autistic children. 

If you want to watch the debate yourself, it is archived on Parliament’s website.

You can find out more about Held Back, our joint campaign with Ambitious About Autism, by reading the report here.

If you want advice about getting support in school for your autistic child, you can contact our Education Rights Service.

If you need specific advice about school exclusions, you can contact our school exclusion service.