The government’s decision to delay the publication of its Green Paper on special educational needs (SEN) provision until March has been criticised by the principal of a specialist autism college.

Darren Jackson, principal of Beechwood College, a further education college for students aged 16 plus who have an ASD or Asperger’s syndrome, argues that the continuing delay is sending the wrong message about education provision for the most vulnerable in society: “Children’s minister Sarah Teather has announced that the SEN and disability Green Paper will be delayed again, this time until March,” he said. “This is the latest set back for the paper originally due to be published last autumn. “Pushing the paper back further ignores the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in our society and risks sending a message to parents that their children are an afterthought on the political agenda.”

While Jackson welcomes the Green Paper, he says that reform of SEN provision is urgently needed because so many children and young people rely on it. “For the parents of a child on the autistic spectrum, the battle to secure funding and support, as well as recognition of their son or daughter’s ‘special education needs’, can be frustrating and exhausting."

To compound the problem, securing funding for post-16 further education, following statutory primary and secondary education, is hugely stressful at a time when adolescents on the autistic spectrum are particularly vulnerable to transition issues. “I’d urge the Government to undertake the review of SEN provision without delay and to ensure the system is reformed effectively. Those with SEN and in particular an ASD urgently need the right care and education provision to improve their quality of life.”