Petra Wilton, Director of Strategy, Chartered Management Institute is changing career to train as a teacher through a schools direct programme in North Essex.

Autumn is a new term for many and for me it’s an exciting new career transition. For the last 18 years, I’ve worked in policy at the Chartered Management Institute on improving management education. I’ve always had a passion for the impact that effective learning and development can have on people’s lives. I’ve also campaigned for the benefits of diversity and inclusion, as successful workplaces need managers and leaders who are able to create a culture which enables everyone to flourish.

Thinking about my training as a teacher, I’m looking forward to learning how to create an inclusive classroom environment where I can best support all children to be confident in their learning and proud of themselves. A clear expectation of my training is that I will gain a broad understanding of how to build in strategies to support and teach children with special educational needs and disabilities, and given that 1 in 100 children are autistic, I am bound to have an autistic child in one of my future classes.

I was hugely surprised to find that until recently there was no expectation for new teachers to learn anything specific about autism. I was shocked to think that new teachers weren’t always previously given this support – that some were teaching autistic children without any autism training.

But fortunately, my first assignment over the summer has been reviewing case studies of children which special educational needs and disabilities. So I’ve been busy building on my anecdotal knowledge of autism through friends and colleagues. Indeed, the National Autistic Society and Autism Education Trust websites are packed with useful practical information and intervention strategies, alongside the more academic textbooks. 

For teachers starting out, there’s a huge amount to take on board. Just knowing about the specific challenges faced by autistic children and some of the strategies that can help, will set me in the right direction and I’m looking to forward to learning far more.

The more you to start to know, the more you realise what you don’t know. So I am fully aware of how challenging teacher training will be - there’s a huge amount for me to learn and start practising in just a year. But I’m very driven by the prospect of being able to help make a difference at a critical stage of development for young people, and in particular, to ensure that in the future any autistic child in my class will be fully included and supported in their development and enjoyment of learning.

Find out more about autism and get free teaching tips and resources by signing up for the charity’s MyWorld newsletter for teachers.

For autism training, visit the Autism Education Trust.