[Mr. Martin Caton in the Chair] — Children and Young People with Autism

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:49 am on 8th October 2008.

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Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Minister of State (Schools and Learners), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Schools and Learners) 10:49 am, 8th October 2008

I am happy to consider what my hon. Friend has said. I take a consistent interest in matters relating to his city, and I will take his comments on board. In respect of exclusion, it would be remiss of me not to underscore the importance that I place on having an appeal system. For children who have been wrongly excluded because of the much mentioned problems with those in the teaching work force having the confidence to understand the disorders, it is crucial that that appeal right is maintained. I urge the Opposition to take note of that.

The hon. Member for Buckingham also discussed bullying. It is a sad and disturbing fact that young people with disabilities can become a target for bullies. Bullying of any kind and of anybody is unacceptable, particularly when it is directed at those who are most vulnerable. Improved communication skills for autistic children will lead to better social interaction with other young people. Of course, that is the case for every child and not just for those who live with a disability. For that reason, an increased emphasis has been put on social issues and skills in the curriculum. The social and emotional aspects of learning programme is helping all pupils relate to one another better, to understand people who are different from us, to manage conflict better and to treat one another with respect. That is becoming much more embedded in primary schools and has been extended to secondary schools. I regret that Mr. Gibb described it as ghastly, because it is a really important programme that runs in our schools, particularly because it tackles such bullying. We are grateful to the National Autistic Society for its help in producing our guidance on bullying involving children with SEN and disabilities. We will be working with the Anti-Bullying Alliance to ensure that its principles are embedded.