An Encouraging Step ForwardBack
Following the publication in the summer of the Government’s National Strategy for Autistic Children, Young People and Adults, you might expect me to start highlighting unworkable recommendations. But, overall, at Whitefield Academy Trust we are pleased to say that these are sensible and rightly ambitious. We know this because we are doing many of them already – early intervention, bespoke training and development for teaching staff, structured and thoughtful transitions into adulthood and tailored pathways into employment. Along with many others in the sector, we’ve been taking this approach with our pupils for some time and it is heartening that the Government is encouraging others to follow suit and, importantly, is providing the funding to enable them to do so.
But what is really encouraging is that the Government wants to see significant improvements within the next five years, an ambitious but necessary timescale.
If the last year has taught us anything, it is how precious each day of every child and young person’s education is. It’s therefore very welcome news that the Government has pledged extra funding for autism training for colleagues working in mainstream schools and colleges. This will make a real difference and will ensure even more autistic pupils will make great progress at school and subsequently live full, independent lives, contribute to their communities and continue to learn throughout their adulthood.
Research tells us autistic women and girls are often better at masking or camouflaging their difficulties. Pleasingly, this Strategy brings this into focus. Although we still have a long way to go, this is a very positive step towards ensuring autistic girls get the support they need to support their education and welfare.
It is also encouraging to see references to supporting families. As all of us in education know, the most important partnership in education is the one between school and home. It is crucial to a pupil’s’ success and welfare. At Whitefield Academy Trust, we actively encourage our pupils’ families to be involved in their child’s education but we know they can only do so with our support. As such, and like most schools, we run an extensive programme of support for our families offered by our dedicated family support team. I hope that as this Strategy moves forward the Government will identify further ways of facilitating parents’ participation in their child’s education.
The Government has pledged to review this Strategy in five years and, when they do, I hope they will continue to set ambitious targets. This Strategy is a very positive step forward but there is so much more to be done. We must keep pushing forward to ensure every child and young person with autism has the opportunity to reach their full potential so they can lead, happy meaningful lives.
Chief Executive Officer
Whitefield Academy Trust