Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

MP calls for mandatory learning disability and autism training for education staff

Dame Caroline Dinenage, MP for Gosport and former Care Minister, is calling on the government to introduce mandatory autism and learning disability training for education staff.

Dame Dineage took to parliament to debate the issue yesterday, and highlighted the urgency of training for education staff on how to best meet the needs of autistic children, children with learning disabilities and special educational needs (SEN).

The debate comes after three petitions which called for mandatory training on neurodiversity for education staff reached nearly 90,000 signatures.

The Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training on Learning Disability and Autism is already being used to train health and social care staff, and Paula McGowan, founder of the training, started the petition which calls for this training to be adapted for education staff.

Majority of secondary school teachers have only received half a day’s training on autism

There are around 200,000 autistic pupils in England and nearly 75% of them are in mainstream schools.

However, research by the National Autistic Society shows that 86% of secondary school teachers had received just half a day’s training on autism, and that three in four parents or carers of autistic children feel that their child’s school does not meet their needs.

Furthermore, only a quarter of autistic pupils feel happy at school, with three in four (74%) parents or carers reporting that their child’s school place does not fully meet their needs.

While 87% of educators feel confident teaching autistic pupils, seven in 10 autistic children said school would be better if more teachers understood autism.

Raising awareness of learning disabilities and autism in the education sector

Dame Dineage says since the Oliver McGowan Training already exists, “we do not need to reinvent the wheel” to provide this training.

It could be easily adapted to inform teachers, lecturers and education staff about how to adjust their teaching environments, how to listen to and understand what young people are saying, how to manage a sensory overload and crisis, and how to adapt communication methods to meet individual needs.

Dame Dineage says this could “make a big difference in nurseries, schools and universities.”

Barbara Keeley MP also spoke during the debate. She said: “The rolling out of training on learning disabilities and autism is likely to significantly benefit the raising of awareness of learning disabilities and autism in the education sector.”

“Mandatory training on learning disabilities and autism for education staff could help to improve the situation for children and young people, as it undoubtably has been doing for health and care staff since it was rolled out,” she added.

Oliver McGowan training has had a “significant impact” in health and care settings

Dame Dineage is now encouraging ministers to meet Paula McGowan, the founder of the training, to discuss how this training could be implemented.

Ms McGowan said: “I am delighted that Dame Caroline Dinenage has brought my petition forward asking for an adapted version of The Oliver McGowan mandatory training on learning disability and autism for Education Staff.

“We know that Oliver’s training for Health and Social care has had a significant impact for both neurodivergent patients and health and care staff.

“I am incredibly grateful that ministers will be discussing the importance of Oliver’s training in education for both teachers who want to be able to better understand and support autistic children and those who have a learning disability to reach their full potential in an educational setting that is enriching, accepting and inclusive.

“I know that Oliver would be delighted to be helping other neurodivergent people like himself to have much better experiences than he did.”

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