To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to support the (a) learning and (b) mental health of autistic children and young people.
The department wants every autistic young person to reach their potential and feel heard at every stage of their life. That is why, in its first year alone, the department is investing £74 million into our cross-government National Autism Strategy to promote a straightforward route to diagnosis, the correct support, increasing understanding and improving access to a quality education and social care.
£600,000 of this funding has gone toward the department’s contract with the Autism Education Trust (AET) for the 2021/22 financial year. The department has funded the AET since 2011 to deliver autism awareness training to education staff in early years, schools and further education colleges. It has so far reached more than 305,000 people across the country. This includes not only teachers and teaching assistants, but also support staff such as receptionists, dining hall staff and caretakers, encouraging a 'whole school' approach to supporting autistic pupils.
The mental health of all students, including autistic children and young people, is a priority for this department. During Mental Health Awareness week in May 2021, we announced more than £17 million to improve mental health and wellbeing support in schools and colleges.
This is in addition to the £79 million to boost children and young people’s mental health support we announced in March 2021. This includes increasing the number of Mental Health Support Teams in schools and colleges to cover approximately 35% of pupils in England by 2023.
In addition to our existing commitments, the department is also determined to ensure that the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) system works more effectively for those children who need extra support, including autistic children. That is why we are completing the SEND Review, to improve outcomes and build a sustainable SEND system where there is clear accountability.