Autism to be part of core teacher training, Government says

Teachers will be taught how to support children with autism for the first time following months of campaigning from charities, parents and MPs, it has emerged.


The source confirmed autism will be now part of the core learning for teachers as part of their initial training following her recommendation.

Autism can present serious learning difficulties and there have been worries that children aren’t understood and supported properly by teachers who receive ‘patchy training’ on how to deal with this.

A NASUWT survey revealed six in ten teachers said they hadn’t been given the training required to teach autistic children.

Autism in schools

Earlier this year, 7,000 people, including teachers and MPs, wrote a letter to Mrs Morgan urging her to include autism as part of the ongoing review of the initial teacher training framework in England. Earlier in the day, George Osborne, the chancellor, confirmed Mrs Morgan’s intention to make autism a core subject for teachers.

During PMQs, he said: “The Education Secretary shares her concern and has personally raised the issue with the chair of the initial teacher training review, Stephen Munday.

“My right hon. Friend has stressed the importance of ensuring that teachers are properly trained to support young people with special educational needs and specifically autism.

“As a result, the chairman will include recommendations in the report on how core teacher training should cover special educational needs. The report will be published shortly.”

Mrs Morgan tweeted: “As outlined at #PMQs we want Initial Teacher Training to include focus on SEN including specifically supporting children with autism.”

‘Excellent news’

The announcement was welcomed by campaigners and teachers.

Adam Boddison, chief executive of charity Nasen, said: “This is excellent news for thousands of children and young people who will now be able to benefit from teachers who understand more about autism and are better prepared for meeting their needs in the classroom.

“However, there is still further work to do as the scale and complexity of SEND in schools is much broader than autism alone.

“Nasen would like to see a significant proportion of initial teacher education content allocated to supporting the full range of individual needs of children and young people.”

Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society, said: “Today’s announcement is very promising and, if followed through, will transform the prospects of generations of children on the autism spectrum.

“More than 1 in 100 children are on the autism spectrum, and over 70 per cent go to mainstream schools, so every teacher will teach autistic students during their careers. Yet, autism training has historically not been mandatory for teachers, and some start school with no special educational needs training at all.

“Over 7,000 people, including MPs and school staff, signed our joint letter with Ambitious about Autism to Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, earlier this year, calling for autism to be included in Initial Teacher Training. We’re very pleased the Government has listened to their voices and recognised the need to give teachers the training they need to help autistic children.

“Teachers don’t need to be experts in autism. But a general knowledge of the lifelong condition and the different ways it can affect a child’s time in school will make a huge difference. For instance, some children really struggle with change, so much so that a new seating plan or lesson structure can be extremely distressing. Simple changes, like gradually preparing a child for changes and communicating them carefully, can make a huge difference.

“Every teacher deserves the right training, and every autistic child needs a teacher who understands them.”

Campaigners have said that with more than one in 100 children on the autism spectrum and over 70 per cent of them going to mainstream schools every teacher will have autistic students in their classes at some point.

Yet, autism training is not mandatory for teachers and some have no special educational needs training at all, leaving them unable to deal with complex issues that could damage a child’s education.

But Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, personally campaigned for teachers to be properly trained in supporting pupils with special needs, specifically autism.

A senior Government source told the Daily Telegraph: “[Mrs Morgan] approached the chair of the initial teacher training review, Stephen Munday, and personally raised the issue of including training on special educational needs (SEN), especially autism, as key part of training.

“She recommended that this is part of the core content that teachers follow. She is passionate about this.”

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