Justin Tomlinson MP has backed the National Autistic Society and Ambitious About Autism campaign to introduce a national autism and educational strategy; building on the positive work the Government has done to support young people with Autism and learning disabilities.
Justin has added his name to a joint letter to the Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds MP, asking him to ensure that as much support as possible is provided to the 120,000 school-aged children on the autistics spectrum in England.
Three years ago the Government introduced a new special educational needs and disability (SEND) system in England, in order to do more to meet the needs of autistic children and young people. The Government is also delivering new stand-alone and mainstream education places for children with Autism, ASCs and SEND, and has increased high-needs funding.
Justin has previously raised the issue of school funding for children with Autism (known as “high-needs” funding), having worked closely with the National Autistic Society and local providers including Uplands School. The Department for Education responded providing an additional £92.5 million of high needs funding to local authorities for the 2016-2017 year and an additional £130 million will be provided for 2017-2018.
While there has been important progress in this area, Justin is supporting ambitious calls to go further so that every young person with a Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) or Special Educational Needs (SEN) has the opportunity to reach their full potential.
The open letter to the Secretary of State for Education was handed to Damian Hinds MP at a reception in Parliament on 31 January, with Justin in attendance. The letter is in response to an autism and education report which was launched in November 2017 by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism (APPGA) alongside the National Autistic Society, which suggested that more could be done to support those on the spectrum.
Swindon is fortunate to be home excellent ASC provision, with Uplands, Brimblehill and Chalet providing high-quality tailored support. Justin is also working closely with the new Brunel SEN Multi-Academy Trust to deliver a new free school specialising in supporting young people with Autism in Swindon.
Justin Tomlinson MP said: “I am a longstanding supporter of the National Autistic Society and Ambitious About Autism, having worked closely with them as the Minister for Disabled People. Whilst the Government has rightly increased funding and made this area a priority, I have spoken with constituents and heard personal accounts from families who say that more can be done to secure the right school provision and education support for their autistic child. I have signed this letter to help explore what further can done to ensure all autistic children receive the education they deserve.”
Mark Lever, Chief Executive at the National Autistic Society, said: “We would like to see the Government develop a national autism and education strategy to make sure that the right type of school and support is available near where you live as standard, not because of luck and make sure the education system as a whole understands autism.”