Report reveals blueprint for good practice in autism education

01 September 2011

A new report, commissioned by the Autism Education Trust (AET) and written by Professor Tony Charman and a team at the Institute of Education (IOE), London, has identified the features that represent 'good practice' in autism education across a range of settings and approaches. The report - from the IOE's Centre for Research in Autism and Education - outlines key themes and recommended practices which all schools can adopt to improve their education practice for pupils on the autism spectrum.

Entitled What is Good Practice in Autism Education?, the report provides the context for the AET to develop National Autism Education Standards and deliver autism education training that meets those standards to teachers and other education professionals. It also gives schools an immediate blueprint for 'good practice' in autism education, which professionals in the field of autism education agree is 'good practice' for all pupils.

Speaking about the findings of the report, Professor Charman, who holds the Chair in Autism Education at the IOE, says,

"Many of the themes that emerged from this research are reflected strongly in the proposals outlined in the government's Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Green Paper. These include the importance of joint working between education, health, social care and voluntary organisations; the need for staff to have high expectations of all their pupils, to be well-trained, and crucially to understand autism at a detailed level."

Steve Huggett, Director of the AET, says,

"One of the most interesting findings of the report in the context of the new remit of the AET is teachers' need for networks of schools to work together to disseminate knowledge with specialist schools and services working as 'centres of excellence' in autism education practice. The AET is currently developing a 'hub' training model which is designed to capture the expertise in specialist schools, units and services and to ensure that all teachers have access to it via autism education training."

Sixteen schools, selected as leaders in the field of autism education , were included in the research, ranging from early years provision to provision for 19–year–old pupils, educating pupils with autism across the ability range in special schools, specialist autism schools, and autism resource bases within mainstream schools. The primary data collection encompassed in-depth interviews with school staff and, in some schools, with pupils and parents and carers.

Key findings:

• Schools had high ambitions and aspirations for pupils with autism; for them to reach their full potential and to be included in school and society.
• Schools were interested in hearing the pupil's own voice about their learning and other school activities.
• Schools went further than individualising and adapting the curriculum for each pupil. They saw the need for a unique 'autism curriculum', which captured not only children's learning needs but also sought to address the social, emotional and communication needs of children and young people with autism, and to nurture their independence and well-being.
• Schools used multiple assessments beyond those statutorily required in order to monitor progress in terms of attainments and also with respect to social and behavioural outcomes, again acknowledging that the education of children with autism must be broader than for children without autism.
• Staff in schools were both highly trained and highly motivated and the expectations placed on staff by school leaders were high.
• There was a considerable amount of joint working with specialist health practitioners, in particular speech and language therapists, occupational therapists and mental-health professionals, and with social care professionals and the voluntary sector.
• Training for all staff, including for support staff, was a priority for schools, and many schools were active in disseminating their expertise to other schools and practitioners.
• Senior school staff provided strong leadership and vision that encompassed not only their own school but also the broader community where they took on the role of 'ambassadors' for autism to raise community awareness.
• Schools worked in partnership with families, aware that there is reciprocity in such relationships and that parents and carers have expertise and knowledge to share with schools, just as the schools do with parents and carers. (In addition, they recognised that families of children and young people with autism can often be vulnerable and require additional support, which they did their best to provide within the resources available – although they wished they could do more.)

The AET is funded by The Department for Education to develop National Autism Education Standards for all schools across England and deliver autism education training to education professionals over two years via networks based on hub schools and services. An estimated one in 100 children are on the autism spectrum meaning that all schools should be equipped to effectively teach children and young people with autism.

To download the report in full and to find out more about the Autism Education Trust visit www.autismeducationtrust.org.uk or email info@autismeducationtrust.org.uk

Notes for Editors:

What is Good Practice in Autism Education?: AET (2011) Research Team: Tony Charman, Liz Pellicano, Lindy V Peacey, Nick Peacey, Kristel Forward, Julie Dockrell (2011) Centre for Research in Autism and Education (CRAE), Department of Psychology and Human Development, Institute of Education, University of London

For more information, photographs or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Jennie Spears | 07944 552634 |
jennie.spears@btinternet.com

The Autism Education Trust (AET) is England's only umbrella organisation for autism education. Its work is currently supported by over 25 voluntary, statutory and community groups who contribute to the work of the AET through its External Reference Group and Programme Board membership.

The IOE
The Institute of Education is a college of the University of London that specialises in education and related areas of social science and professional practice. In the most recent Research Assessment Exercise two-thirds of the Institute's research activity was judged to be internationally significant and over a third was judged to be "world leading". The Institute was recognised by Ofsted in 2010 for its "high quality" initial teacher training programmes that inspire its students "to want to be outstanding teachers". The IOE is a member of the 1994 Group, which brings together 19 internationally renowned, research-intensive universities.

CRAE
The Centre for Research in Autism and Education was established in 2009 with a mission to improve the research evidence for effective interventions, education and outcomes for children and young people with autism. The centre aims to produce research findings that will influence health and education policy and practice in the UK and internationally. CRAE is a partnership between the Institute of Education and Ambitious about Autism, the national charity for autism education.
More information at www.ioe.ac.uk/crae