Teachers will be taught how to support autistic pupils, Government says

The announcement follows months of campaigning from parents, MPs and charity groups, who argue that the majority of teachers are insuffiently equipped to cater to autistic children's needs

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The Independent Online

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

In response to a question posed during Prime Minister’s Questions, Chancellor George Osborne confirmed the Government’s intentions to make autism a mandatory training subject for teachers in England. 

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.”

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

The announcement follows months of pressure from MPs and charity groups, who wrote an open letter to Ms Morgan signed by 7,000 earlier this year. The letter urged the Education Secretary to include autism as part of the on-going review of initial teacher training framework across schools in England. 

A spokesperson for Ms Morgan confirmed that a new curriculum for teacher training has been proposed by Stephen Munday, who chairs the Government-appointed group to develop initial teacher training courses. 

While details of the new teacher training curriculum are yet to be published, specific training in special education needs (SEN), including autism, will be included as part of teachers’ core learning.  

“Teachers don’t always have sufficient training for these children with special requirements, not should they be expected to,” the spokesperson said.

“Some schools are fantastic already in teaching staff how to look after SEN pupils, but we want this kind of training to be available across the board.”

At least one child in every 100 is on the autism spectrum, making them at risk of falling behind in classes as a result of learning difficulties and inadequate support. 

Campaigners argue that with over 70 per cent of those children attending mainstream schools, all teachers should be trained in how to adapt to the complex needs of those affected.

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

Now, Government officials say that teachers working with autistic children will be given increased support along with the necessary initial training. 

The National Autistic Society said the breakthrough was “huge,” and will “transform the prospects of generations of autistic children”.

Chief Executive Mark Lever said: “Today’s announcement is very promising.”

“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.”