Sir Gavin Williamson met with the National Autistic Society in parliament to discuss their new report looking at standards of education for autistic children.
Sir Gavin met with representatives from the charity, and was keen to understand the report’s findings, which demonstrated a considerable lack of support for autistic children within education. In particular he was shocked to discover that only 39% of teachers surveyed for the report had received more than half a day’s autism training, and for secondary school teachers this figure is even lower, falling at just 14%. These statistics help to explain why the National Autistic Society uncovered a dissatisfaction among autistic students with the way they were taught in school. Only 26% of autistic students surveyed described themselves as feeling happy at school. A lack of teaching that understands the needs of autistic students can have detrimental consequences to their chances later in life. Sir Gavin was disturbed by the statistic that, beyond school, only 29% of autistic people are in any form of employment, compared to around 80% of adults in the general UK population.
Sir Gavin said: “The report by the National Autistic Society was really enlightening in terms of highlighting where the failings of our current education system are, and what can be done to correct them. I agree with the recommendations of the report that schools should be encouraged to work with the Autism Education Trust, an excellent resource for specialised teacher training. In Staffordshire the need for adequate care for autistic children is especially significant. I know that 14 children out of every 1,000 in Staffordshire identify with being autistic. Therefore, it is important to me to do what I can in parliament and in my constituency to ensure they are getting the support they need.”
Mel Merritt, Head of Policy and Campaigns at the National Autistic Society, said: “We were delighted to welcome Sir Gavin Williamson MP to our Let Every Autistic Child Learn event at Parliament so they could hear directly from autistic people about how the education system isn’t working for them. There is no excuse – every child should be taught by a teacher who’s had training to understand autism. Too many autistic children are missing out on support to learn and enjoy school. We look forward to working together to make our vision for quality education for all autistic people a reality.”