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Volume 405: debated on Monday 19 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what plans he has to introduce a specific qualification for young people with (a) autism and (b) similar disabilities; [112675](2) what the form is of assessment for autistic children in

(a) mainstream and (b) special schools; [112676]

(3) what plans his Department has to enable autistic young people to follow further education and higher education courses. [112677]

The Special Educational Needs (SEN) Code of Practice gives statutory guidance to schools, local education authorities and others on assessing children's special educational needs and making provision to meet those needs, including the needs of children with autism.Autism is a spectrum disorder with children across the spectrum showing the full range of intellectual abilities. Many children within the spectrum can, with the right support, achieve in National Curriculum assessments and external qualifications alongside their non-autistic peers. Special arrangements are available under the National Curriculum and from awarding bodies to allow children with SEN to take examinations and tests on an equal footing.There are no assessment arrangements or qualifications that are specific to children and young people with autism or similar disabilities. However, there are a range of arrangements available for assessing the progress and recording the achievements of children with special educational needs, including those with autism, for whom the usual assessment arrangements and public examinations are not suitable. The Department, with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, has published guidance to help schools, including special schools, set targets for children with SEN who are performing below National Curriculum Level 1 or within Levels 1 and 2 in English, mathematics and science. The guidance contains Performance Criteria, the 'P' scales, which can be used to assess pupils' progress. Award schemes areavailable through which the key life skills of young people with SEN can be recognised and 'Progress Files' can be used to record their academic and non academic achievements. The Working Group on our 14–19 reforms, under the chairmanship of Mike Tomlinson, will be looking at assessment arrangements and how they can be used to motivate all learners.A primary aim of SEN support is that young people with SEN make successful transitions from school to further education, training and adult life. The revised SEN Code of Practice, effective from January 2002, contains strengthened transition planning arrangements involving the Connexions Service In addition, under the Learning and Skills Act 2000, the Connexions Service, on behalf of the Secretary of State, must carry out assessments of all young people with statements of SEN who are in the last year of compulsory schooling and are intending to go on to further education or training or higher education and may carry out assessments in other circumstances. The assessments are of the young person's education and training needs and the provision required to meet those needs. The Learning and Skills Council must have regard to these assessments and the Connexions Service is expected to work with the Council and other providers to make suitable learning opportunities available to young people with SEN. Under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 further and higher education and training providers must make reasonable adjustments to prevent discrimination against disabled students and potential students.More generally, the Government is developing an SEN Action Programme of practical measures to support local education authorities and schools, working in partnership with others, in improving provision for children and young people with special educational needs.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans he has to introduce ring-fenced funding in education for children with autism. [112683]

We currently have no plans to introduce ring-fenced funding in education for children with autism or for any other type of special educational need.