The National Autistic Society recently published their Education Report. Having now read the report I wanted to be able to share my reflections and experiences. It is worth noting at this stage that this report can’t tell the full story as whilst the National Autistic Society don’t make a comment about it, this report must only reflect those who are diagnosed.
The full report can be found here: https://www.autism.org.uk/what-we-do/news/education-report-2023
Understanding from teachers
There are many statistics revealed in this report that highlight the reality of the school experience for autistic children in school. This includes the findings that only 26% of autistic children feel happy at school.
There are also results across the surveys that seem to tell a very different story. This can be seen the most in the findings that 87% of teachers felt either confident or very confident supporting autistic children. However only 39% of teachers, or 14% of secondary teachers, have had more than half a day of training on autism so it interesting to see how many feel confident despite a lack of training.
The report does also highlight that 54% of autistic children felt that the worst thing about school was teachers not understanding them and 70% said school would be better if teachers understood autism. This again tells a different story to the survey results from teachers and highlights a key issue within education for autistic children. If teachers believe that they are confident about supporting autistic students but autistic students don’t feel teachers understand them, this is creating a divide between teachers and children.
This divide is further highlighted by the number of autistic children being twice as likely to be excluded from school.
Providing more training spread out across the school year or during inset days would be a vital way of help to resolve that divide.
Understanding from peers
The report highlights that just 8% of autistic people felt that their peers understood. This again highlights the issues within schools as children are not feeling understood by those around them. Talking openly and safely about autism, and neurodiversity in general, is something that should be taking place regularly. This should help to increasing understanding and reduce bullying.
Much of the rest of the report focuses on a school’s legal duty to put reasonable adjustments in place around areas such as:
· Sensory Overload,
In recent weeks I have seen many posts from teachers and school improvement officers talking about how they don’t need to make reasonable adjustments and trying to justify their reasons for this. The reality is that reasonable adjustments are vital for supporting to autistic children to attend school and being able to thrive in school.
There needs to be more equity within schools so that children receive the support that they need. Reasonable adjustments aren’t just a list of what we want but what we need.
Overall, the findings in this report did not come as a surprise to me and I’m sure they didn’t to many other people. But the most important thing we need to do now is take action and make change. We can’t allow this to be the ongoing situation for any longer, we know where the issues are, so we need to work together to improve the education system for autistic children.