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Volume 449: debated on Tuesday 25 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what steps he plans to take to provide specialist teacher training for the support of children with autism in mainstream schooling; (86500)

(2) what steps his Department is taking to support specialist teacher training for the support of children with autism in mainstream schooling.

The framework for teacher training ensures that qualifying and newly qualified teachers, including those who support children with autism in mainstream schools, are aware of their responsibilities to children with special educational needs (SEN) and can plan effectively to meet these children’s needs. Further, in-service training on particular SEN, such as autism, is a matter for schools and local authorities.

In order to be awarded Qualified Teacher Status, all trainee teachers must demonstrate that they understand their responsibilities under the statutory Special Educational Needs Code of Practice, know how to seek advice from specialists on less common types of SEN, can differentiate their teaching to meet the needs of pupils, including those with SEN, and can identify and support pupils who experience behavioural, emotional and social difficulties.

The current standards for teachers are under review. Once revised, it is proposed that they will be strengthened to include a standard which requires teachers to know and comply with current legislation on well-being of children and young people and one which requires teachers to know and understand the role of others when dealing with children who have special needs and/or disabilities.

Induction Standards require Newly Qualified Teachers to demonstrate that they can plan effectively to meet the needs of pupils in their classes with SEN, with or without a statement, and in consultation with the SEN Co-ordinator (SENCO), can contribute to the planning for individual needs.

The Department’s published SEN Strategy, ‘Removing Barriers to Achievement’ recognised the importance of training and committed us to work closely with the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) to ensure that initial teacher training and programmes of continuing professional development provide a good grounding in core skills and knowledge of SEN. We have commissioned the TDA to carry forward a range of initiatives designed to improve and strengthen the SEN skills and confidence of trainees, newly qualified and established teachers. These initiatives will be implemented over the period 2005-08 at a cost of approximately £1.1 million.

All schools receive a School Development Grant which they are able to use to support improvements in any aspect of teaching and learning. Local authorities may retain a proportion of this grant, under certain conditions, to provide specific training and development of SEN.

In 2002 we published jointly with the Department of Health, “Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASDs): Good Practice Guidance” which offered a series of pointers to good practice, including pointers on in-service training. The Guidance advises that,

“all those who plan or provide for children with an ASD should have some knowledge and understanding of autism”.

Many schools, local authorities and Regional Partnerships have used the Guidance to develop their autism provision. The West Midlands Regional Partnership last month published “autism spectrum disorders: training policy and framework” to ensure more consistency in ASD training by clarifying the knowledge and skills that courses are aiming to cover. This has been distributed to all the Regional Partnerships.