Special Educational Needs: Autism

Department for Education written question – answered on 23rd April 2018.

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Photo of Alex Sobel Alex Sobel Labour/Co-operative, Leeds North West

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to make primary and secondary schools autism friendly.

Photo of Nadhim Zahawi Nadhim Zahawi The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

The Department for Education (DfE) has funded the Autism Education Trust (AET) since 2011 to deliver autism awareness training for early years, school and post-16 education staff. To date, the AET has provided training for more than 150,000 education staff. The training is available for all those who work in schools, not just teachers. The AET has also published national autism standards for educational settings and a competency framework for those working with children and young people with autism. We have recently confirmed a two-year extension to the contract with the AET worth £1.45 million.

We have provided funding to a range of organisations leading on different kinds of SEND to develop resources and training to equip the school workforce, including on autism. A SEND review tool to help schools identify priorities and build school-to-school approaches to improvement is now available at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/commissioning-a-send-review. This is supported by a number of tools to address any weaknesses identified by a review, available at www.sendgateway.org.uk. We will shortly be awarding a two-year contract to provide strategic support to the workforce in mainstream and special schools, from foundation stage to sixth form, to deliver high quality teaching across all types of SEND.

Schools also have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments for pupils who are disabled, which would include those on the autistic spectrum, and to ensure that disabled pupils are not at a substantial disadvantage compared with their peers. This duty is anticipatory, it requires thought to be given in advance to what disabled children and young people may require and what adjustments might be needed to prevent that disadvantage.

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