Campaign launched to stop autistic children and young people being ‘written off’ at school
Ambitious about Autism has launched a new campaign calling on the government not to write off autistic children and young people’s chances of achieving in education.
After speaking to nearly 2,000 families and autistic young people, we want a public pledge from decision-makers that SEND funding and families’ legal rights to get support for their children will be protected.
The government is currently reviewing how it can improve the special educational needs system which it admits is ‘failing to deliver' for young people and families. But families who responded to Ambitious about Autism’s survey, fear that some proposals in the SEND Green Paper will make it even harder for their autistic children to access support in education, for example by limiting parents’ ability to choose a school for their child.
We also want a public commitment from the government to fund support for children with SEND. The additional £2bn for education announced in the Autumn Statement only restores education funding per pupil back to 2010 levels. There are more than twice as many children with SEND in schools and colleges now than there were in 2010, but the government has not set out what funding will be available to pay for the additional support they need.
Ambitious about Autism is calling for a focus on policy solutions that make all schools more autism-inclusive. This includes investing fully in an autism-trained workforce and ensuring Ofsted gives higher priority to SEND support in its inspections.
Jolanta Lasota, Chief Executive of Ambitious about Autism, said:
“The special educational needs system is broken – the government knows this and so do thousands of families who are at crisis point across the country.
“But we fear that key aspects of the government’s SEND review will result in more pain for families, putting at risk current laws that help children with SEND get the assessments, support, and school place they need.
“There are over 125,000 more pupils receiving help for autism in schools now than in 2010. As more pupils come through the SEND system, we must make sure there is the resource and funding to support them.
“We can’t risk making things worse and writing off autistic young people before they’ve even left school. That’s why we are calling on decision-makers to listen to autistic young people and their families and protect the existing laws and funding they rely on.”
Daniel, an autistic young person, added:
“As an autistic student, I want the next generation of autistic young people to have a better experience of school than I did.
“I’d arrive at school and face a whole day in a hostile and overwhelming environment, where I knew if I got overwhelmed or started having a meltdown there would be no one to help me. I was told they did not have resources to help me. It was suggested I was choosing not to attend school, and that I needed more resilience.
“One size does not fit all, particularly for autistic students, and we shouldn’t face a worse future due to the attitudes of the system. I hope the government will listen and change things for the better for autistic students.”
Ambitious about Autism has published new research outlining its solutions to fixing problems in the SEND system that are holding back autistic children and young people. Earlier this year the charity surveyed nearly 2,000 autistic young people and their families to gather their views.
The survey found that 65% of parents were not happy with their autistic child’s mainstream education, while over a third (36%) of autistic young people had been out of education against their wishes.
The government has consulted on the proposals they put forward in the SEND review green paper, published in March 2022. They are due to announce updated plans in the coming months.
Sign Ambitious about Autism’s petition.