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Teachers and School Staff (Training)

Volume 561: debated on Monday 22 April 2013

2. What recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of training for teachers and school staff on (a) autism and (b) fabricated or induced illness by carers. (152075)

All teachers are teachers of children with special educational needs, including autism. It is for schools themselves to decide what training their staff require to meet their pupils’ needs. We have contracted the Autism Education Trust to provide training for education staff, and it is the responsibility of local safeguarding children boards to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of local training.

Parents seeking a diagnosis of autism can be, and in some cases have been, subjected to unjustified child protection inquiries. Does the Minister agree that we need to look at the guidelines on fabricated and induced illness, and will he meet a family in my constituency who have suffered as a result of that very problem?

My hon. Friend is right to emphasise the value to teachers of being aware of the needs of children with autism. That is why we are funding the Autism Education Trust, and why we are continuing to support the national scholarship scheme, which has elements relating to special educational needs, and the training of more than 10,000 special educational needs co-ordinators as qualified teachers. However, my hon. Friend is right to continue to think about how we can improve the guidelines that are made available in relation to both autism and fabricated or induced illness. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has issued such guidelines, but I should be happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss them further and see what more we can do.

Has the Minister had an opportunity to attend a school that is participating in the Anderson Foundation schools challenge, which is encouraging pupils and teachers to complete 50 tasks to celebrate the 50 years in which the National Autistic Society has been raising awareness of autism?

I am aware of that schools challenge. I suspect that my hon. Friend’s question constitutes an invitation to visit Enfield, Southgate on some future date. I should be happy to learn more about the work that is taking place to support the National Autistic Society and many other autism charities for the great work they do, and I look forward to learning more with my hon. Friend’s support.