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

MP calls for new Bill to make autism training mandatory for education staff

A conservative MP is campaigning for an ‘Early autism assessment and mandatory teacher training Bill’ that would ensure all educational staff receive autism training.

Autism advocate Duncan Baker MP will table a Ten Minute Rule Bill, a type of Private Members’ Bill which allows a backbench MP to make his or her case for a new Bill in a speech lasting up to 10 minutes.

An opposing speech may also be made before the House decides whether or not the Bill should be introduced. If the MP is successful the Bill is taken to have had its first reading.

Autistic children less likely to pass English and maths without support

Mr Baker is campaigning for the Bill to be passed after research by the National Autistic Society (NAS) revealed that just one in seven (14%) secondary school teachers have received autism training.

This is despite the fact that nearly three quarters (73%) of the 180,000 autistic pupils in England are educated in mainstream schools.

A lack of autism training can lead to distress among autistic pupils which can lead to suspensions and exclusions. Indeed, the exclusion of autistic children and young people has more than doubled in the last decade, with autistic children twice as likely to be excluded from school when teachers do not receive appropriate training.

It can also lead to a drop in grades, and currently, just 20% of autistic young people achieve grade 5 or above in English and maths GCSEs compared with 52% of all pupils.

petition which calls for mandatory autism training in schools, started by Paula McGowan OBE, has already reached more than 40,000 signatures.

When autistic children receive the rights support, everyone benefits

Mr Baker says the Bill would not only introduce mandatory training for education staff, but it would also deliver support to reduce autism assessment and diagnosis waiting times, and create a duty to publish a SEND workforce strategy.

Mr Baker said: “The evidence around assessment paints a really worrying picture: over 90% of children wait longer than the NHS 13-week deadline for a diagnosis, with a staggering 46% waiting 18 months or longer.

“Diagnosis is so important: it is the key to obtaining appropriate support which in turn leads to better educational outcomes for autistic pupils and better transitions to work.

“Research has shown that if the needs of a young person with SEND are effectively met that brings a lifetime return of £380,000 per learner, benefiting the economy, families and most importantly the autistic person themselves.

“This is why I am proud to be tabling my Ten Minute Rule Bill, to both highlight the consequences of failing to support autistic pupils, but also to share the incredible benefits to everyone when we get the support right.”

“The system is setting them up to fail”

Ambitious about Autism are supporting Mr Baker to introduce the Bill. Jolanta Lasota, Chief Executive of the charity, says the Bill has the potential to “transform the life outcomes of young autistic people” who are currently set up to fail.

“Families seeking autism assessments face long delays, which means many pupils are missing out on the support that an autism diagnosis can unlock. Meanwhile, lack of autism understanding in schools means pupils in the classroom are facing further setbacks. Six in 10 autistic young people say the main thing that would make school better for them would be having a teacher who understood autism and we know teachers also want better SEND training.

“We are grateful to Duncan Baker MP for highlighting these issues through his Ten Minute Bill. We know the changes proposed in this Bill will help autistic pupils receive the inclusion education they are entitled to,” she said.

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