To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what guidance his Department has provided to schools on supporting autistic children to return to school during the covid-19 outbreak.
The government recognises the significant challenges the COVID-19 outbreak has presented for autistic children, young people and their families. As I set out in my letter of 2 September to children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), their families and carers and those who work to support them, we know that it is critical that all pupils and students can once again benefit from a full-time on-site education 5 days a week. Schools and colleges should ensure that they receive the education, therapeutic or specialist support and reasonable adjustments required for a successful return to school or college. To support this, we have published guidance for the full opening of schools, which is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak/guidance-for-full-opening-schools.
We have also published guidance for the full opening of special schools and other specialist settings, which provides a framework, approved by Public Health England, that sets out the high-level actions that should be taken. and is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-for-full-opening-special-schools-and-other-specialist-settings/guidance-for-full-opening-special-schools-and-other-specialist-settings.
The guidance makes it clear that coproduction and collaboration with families is crucial.
The department funds the Autism Education Trust (AET) to deliver training to education professionals and embed good autism practice in schools and colleges across England. AET has developed a hub of guidance and resources for families, teachers and other professionals aimed at supporting children and young people during the COVID-19 outbreak and in this period of adjustment as they return to school. The guidance is available at: https://www.autismeducationtrust.org.uk/?s=covid.
This includes guidance for schools on making appropriate reasonable adjustments and practical strategies for managing increased anxiety, changes in routine and environment and transitions to new settings.
The department has also launched a new programme run by mental health experts, backed by £8 million, to provide schools and colleges across England with the knowledge and access to the resources they need to support children and young people, teachers and parents, if they have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. This includes a focus on the specific mental health and wellbeing needs of children with autism and SEND.