Pupils: Autism and Disability

Department for Education written question – answered at on 19 February 2024.

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Photo of Anneliese Dodds Anneliese Dodds Party Chair, Labour Party, Chair of Labour Policy Review, Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps her Department has taken to help ensure that new school buildings are designed so as to enable students with (a) physical disabilities, (b) mental disabilities and (c) autism spectrum conditions to be included in the (i) curriculum and (ii) life of the school; and what steps her Department has taken to assist schools to adapt existing buildings.

Photo of David Johnston David Johnston The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

The department’s ambition is for all children and young people, no matter what their special educational needs and disabilities are, to receive the right support to succeed in their education and as they move into adult life.

All school building projects that are delivered by the department must meet the requirements set out in the department’s school building specification. The department publishes a range of guidance specifically for the construction of special schools, which support the provision of inclusive learning environments including access, acoustics and specialist Special Educational Needs provision. These are available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/school-design-and-construction.

More generally, all new school buildings must meet the requirements of the Building Regulation’s Approved Document: M, which sets out the details on access to and use of buildings. This can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/access-to-and-use-of-buildings-approved-document-m.

The department does not publish specific guidance on how to adapt existing schools. Under the Equality Act 2010, schools must make reasonable adjustments to prevent pupils with special educational needs and disabilities being put at a substantial disadvantage. Additionally, under the Children and Families Act 2014, mainstream schools must use their best endeavours to make sure a child or young person who has special educational needs and disabilities, including those who are autistic, get the special educational provision they need.

To support the adaptation of existing buildings, the department has allocated over £1.5 billion of High Needs Provision Capital for the 2022/23 and 2023/24 financial years. This funding forms part of the department’s transformational investment of £2.6 billion in new high needs provision between 2022 and 2025. Local authorities can use this funding to deliver new places in mainstream and special schools, as well as other specialist settings, and to improve the suitability and accessibility of existing buildings.

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