David Drew MP calls for national autism and education strategy to ensure autistic pupils are no longer ‘held back’
David Drew MP has backed the National Autistic Society and Ambitious About Autism campaign, Held Back, to ensure the Government introduces a national autism and educational strategy. He has written to the Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds MP urging them to take action to make sure the 120,000 school-aged children on the autism spectrum in England are no longer held back.
The open letter to the Secretary of State for Education was handed to Damian Hinds MP at a reception in Parliament on 31 January, with David Drew MP in attendance. The letter is in response to an autism and education report which was launched in November 2017 by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism (APPGA) alongside the National Autistic Society.
The APPGA report was published following an inquiry, which included a survey of over 3,000 parents, carers, young people and teachers, as well as expert witness evidence sessions in Parliament. The findings, which came three years after the Government introduced a new special educational needs and disability (SEND) system in England, showed that the education system was still failing to meet the needs of autistic children and young people.
David Drew, Labour MP for Stroud, said: “I’m proud to back the National Autistic Society and Ambitious About Autism’s Held Back campaign. I have spoken with constituents and heard personal accounts from families who are still struggling to secure the right school provision and education support for their autistic child.
“Over 20,000 people have signed this open letter to the Secretary of State for Education, demonstrating just how important this is. We must ensure all autistic children receive the education they deserve.”
Mark Lever, Chief Executive at the National Autistic Society, said: “Autistic children and young people in England are being let down and held back by the education system and this is putting an unnecessary strain on often already vulnerable children and their families.
“The Government must make sure councils are following the law and hold failing local areas to account. Additionally, the Government must develop a national autism and education strategy to make sure that the right type of school and support is available near where you live as standard, not because of luck and make sure the education system as a whole understands autism.”
The Open letter:
Dear Secretary of State,
The education system in England is letting down children and young people on the autism spectrum. Too many children are not getting the support they need to succeed at school, and are held back from achieving their potential because they’re autistic.
Autism is one of the most common types of special educational need, affecting children in every school in the country. More than 1 in 100 children are on the autism spectrum, with 70 per cent educated in mainstream schools. While autism can present some serious difficulties, we know that a child who is understood and supported appropriately can make excellent progress.
The Children and Families Act 2014 and the SEND Code of Practice make clear that children with special educational needs such as autism should have their needs identified early and support put in place quickly.
But many parents have to fight to get the support their child is entitled to. 50 per cent of children on the autism spectrum have to wait more than a year for the help they need at school. 42 per cent of children are refused an assessment by their local authority of their education, health and care needs the first time this is requested. 40 per cent of parents say their child’s school place does not fully meet their needs.
The consequence of this is that children too often have to fail at school before support is provided. This has a negative impact on their educational outcomes, their self-esteem and their long-term prospects.
In their recent inquiry into how well the education system works for children on the autism spectrum, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism concluded that a national autism and education strategy is needed. This would make sure that local authorities plan and commission the services and support that are needed in every area. It would also help schools to develop a better understanding of the needs of autistic pupils and make the necessary adjustments to meet those needs.
Every child has only one childhood. There is one opportunity to get it right for them. We urge you to put in place a national autism and education strategy without delay so that every child has the opportunity to thrive, and no child is held back.
Mark Lever, Chief Executive, The National Autistic Society
Jolanta Lasota, Chief Executive, Ambitious About Autism