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Special Educational Needs and Autism

Volume 598: debated on Monday 20 July 2015

5. If she will establish a framework to allow for alternative means of educational assessment for children with (a) special educational needs and (b) autism. (901090)

Many pupils with special educational needs, including autism, are currently assessed using P scales or national curriculum levels. We are changing statutory assessment to align it with the reformed national curriculum. That includes the removal of levels. We have announced an expert review of assessment for pupils who, for many reasons, are working below the standard of national curriculum tests. The review will advise on the best way to assess the attainment and progress of those pupils in future.

Schools such as Milton Park primary, where I am a governor and which has autism provision, have to include those children’s results in national league tables. I am pleased that the Government’s focus is on progress, but the results of children with special educational needs often bring down the attainment grade, and that can lead to a belief that a school is coasting—or, worse, failing. Does the Minister agree that until a separate method of recording for children with special needs is implemented, some good schools that have a large proportion of children with special needs might be put into those categories?

It is of course important that schools be held to account for all their pupils, and although I concur wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend’s desire to see all pupils, including those with special educational needs, reach their full academic potential, we need to acknowledge that a separate system for pupils with SEN would be at odds with the principles of inclusion and would fail to recognise that those pupils span the full range of abilities. Those matters will be looked at closely in the coming months by the expert review panel—something that I know she will want to follow, so as to ensure that it incorporates her views.

I do beg the hon. Lady’s pardon. It is a case of mistaken identity, and I apologise. Let us hear from her.

The Minister will be aware that children with special educational needs have a range of needs. Will he detail his Department’s plans to ensure that sport is available to all pupils and, in particular, describe his plans to ensure that classroom assistants are available to support the needs of all children?

One of the core principles of our reforms to special educational needs is making sure that every aspect of the system, whether it be education, health or social care, is working relentlessly to a single assessment of and plan for the child, so that we have a whole-school and whole-system approach—and a nought-to-25 system as well. It will mean that we move away from different parts of a child’s educational experience being truncated and re-started as they move to the next part. We are working hard to make sure that support is consistent, and we are building on great programmes such as Achievement for All, in which we have had excellent results.

I am sure the Minister will be aware of the impressive claims made about the benefits of applied behavioural analysis for the treatment of those with autism. Does he have any plans to support research into the efficacy of that therapy?

As the hon. Gentleman will know, we have supported research into and evidence on not only the condition of autism, but how it can best be supported in schools and more widely through a child’s education. We have funded the National Autistic Society to that end, and we will continue to look at ways in which we can support it and other organisations that are working hard in this area in the future. We know that specific types of interventions, some of which have come from overseas, need to be properly and rigorously assessed. As I understand it, the one he mentions may fall into that category, but of course I am happy to discuss it with him as we move forward.