Heather last week attended the National Autistic Society’s Let Every Child Learn event in Parliament to learn more about the charity’s recent Education Report.
Heather showed support for the National Autistic Society’s call for reform in the education system, to ensure that autistic children and young people can get the right school places to meet their needs.
The National Autistic Society has research showing that there are 200,000 autistic pupils in England, but only a quarter (26%) feel happy at school whilst three in four parents or carers of autistic children (74%) said their child’s school place does not meet their needs.
The National Autistic Society says that there needs to be appropriate teacher training as autistic children are twice as likely to be excluded from school. While 87% of teachers surveyed felt confident supporting autistic pupils in the classroom, only 39% of teachers in mainstream schools have received more than half a day’s autism training. This falls to just 14% for secondary school teachers.
Autistic pupils can face barriers to learning at school including sensory overload, bullying, a lack of understanding from teachers and peers, and a lack of support with exams and during key transition periods.
Heather says: “At the National Autistic Society event last week I heard from students about their experiences at school, viewed artwork by the National Autistic Society’s campaigners and heard the calls on the Government they are making to improve autistic children’s chances of receiving a quality education.
“I regularly visit Schools in my constituency, and I always ask about the SEND provision. The Government’s Autism strategy is well-financed and runs to 2026. It aims to tackle the barriers autistic people face so they can live independent and fulfilling lives; ensure faster diagnosis and better access to health and social care for autistic people of all ages; and support better education tailored to the needs of autistic children and young people. Training and development to support pupils with autism starts at the beginning of a teacher’s training through their Initial Teacher Training and the Government is currently looking at how to improve this which is good.”
Mel Merritt, Head of Policy and Campaigns at the National Autistic Society, said: “We were delighted to welcome Mrs Heather Wheeler OBE MP to our Let Every Autistic Child Learn event at Parliament so they could hear directly from autistic people about how the education system isn’t working for them.
“There is no excuse – every child should be taught by a teacher who’s had training to understand autism. Too many autistic children are missing out on support to learn and enjoy school. We look forward to working together to make our vision for quality education for all autistic people a reality.”