Members of Ambitious about Autism’s youth network are calling on the government to make schools more inclusive for neurodiverse pupils.
The group of autistic young people have sent the Education Secretary and new Minister for Schools and Childhood a plan explaining the outcomes they expect them to achieve in their new roles. Key targets include:
Require all education staff to be trained in autism and involve autistic young people in the development of the training.
Make sure schools cannot get a good or outstanding Ofsted judgement without high-quality SEND support.
Ensure schools are more inclusive environments for all pupils, including inclusive uniform, attendance, and behavioural policies.
Protect young people and families’ existing SEND rights, and ensure they are enforced.
Setting targets that will make life better for all pupils
The letter comes as the government considers new proposals to overhaul the special educational needs system. These include plans to introduce legislation that will create a new set of national standards for the SEND system, overhaul the SEND tribunal process and introduce ‘tailored lists’ of schools for parents to choose from.
However, Ambitious about Autism is concerned that some of the proposals could weaken young people’s existing rights and protections. The charity is also worried that the most recent version of the Schools Bill (which expects 90% of primary school children to reach a certain standard in literacy and numeracy) could impact the resources and support available to help SEND pupils.
Meg, a member of the Ambitious Youth Network, said: “As the Government’s new education team start their jobs, we wanted to set them targets that we think will make life better for all autistic pupils.
“It’s important to have high aspirations, but for some autistic children and young people, it might be unrealistic to achieve the expected grades in English and Maths. Instead, we need to make sure that autistic pupils are able to achieve at their level so they can make progress in all areas of their lives.”
“It must work for them if it is to work at all”
The charity says that getting the SEND review right is “critical” and it is now calling on the government to ensure the School Bill and SEND Review work together more effectively.
They said: “Autism is the most prevalent primary need among children with an education, health, and care plan. A significant proportion of children receiving SEN Support will be autistic. The needs of autistic children and young people cut across health, care, and education, and are very individual.
“Many autistic young people have physical or mental health needs, and some have a learning disability. Like all young people, autistic young people can have significant areas of strength alongside significant challenges.
“All these things put autistic young people at the heart of the SEND system. It must work for them if it is to work at all.”