Mark Lever - Chief Executive of the National Autistic SocietyThe National Autistic Society gave evidence in the House of Commons to the Education Select Committee this week (20 November), in support of their inquiry into support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). 

You can read more about the inquiry on the Parliament UK website and watch a recording of the full session on the Parliament Live page.

It was an opportunity for us, alongside other charities and advocates, to highlight the problems that many families face getting vital support for their autistic children. The discussion explored a number of very important issues, including:

  • delays in assessing children’s needs
  • the rising number of appeals to the SEND Tribunal
  • the need for better SEN support in schools
  • the importance of early intervention, and the situation for young people up to the age of 25.

What the National Autistic Society said

Mark Lever, our chief executive, told the committee that autism is not well enough understood in the education system. Too many children are held back by not getting the support they need in school, or not getting a place at a school where their needs will be fully met.

Mark said: “The system is not good at planning ahead for children on the autism spectrum. We need a national autism and education strategy, to set out what good services look like and how local councils should meet their duties to autistic children.” 

We have been calling for a national autism and education strategy as part of our Held Back campaign, which we and Ambitious about Autism launched in November last year.

We have also sent written evidence to the committee, emphasising important issues that parents and young people have raised with us:

  • parents say that children have to fail at school before support is provided, which has a negative impact on their educational progress and on their overall wellbeing
  • parents have to fight hard for their children’s needs to be recognised and met. There is a gap between what the law says should happen, and what families experience in their local area
  • young people say that the particular challenges they face at school include bullying, being misunderstood by staff and other pupils, coping with changes to the daily routine, and being overwhelmed by too much noise.

What will happen next

The Education Select Committee is not part of the Government and doesn’t have the power to introduce new laws or policies. But it looks closely at what the Government is doing and brings in witnesses for questioning – and ministers have to respond to what they find. The SEND inquiry will continue for the next few months, and the committee will publish a report on it next year.

We will continue campaigning for the rights of autistic people and their families, including calling for national autism and education strategy.

Further information

  • You can watch a recording of the full Education Select Committee session on the Parliament Live page.
  • You can read about our Held back campaign and read the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism’s report on autism and education on this page of our website.
  • For information and advice about autism and education, visit this page of our website. 
  • If you’re looking for confidential information and support about education rights and entitlements, please contact our Education Rights Service.