Autism campaigners praise plan to improve teacher training

The plan bids to improve autism awareness and training within schools and other educational settings.

Autism campaigners praise plan to improve teacher training Getty Images

Teacher training is to be changed to ensure all those studying for a career in the classroom are better informed about autism.

The proposal forms part of an action plan described by campaigners as “life-changing” for both pupils and teachers.

The plan, produced by the Scottish Government, the General Teaching Council for Scotland, Education Scotland and the Scottish Council of Deans of Education, bids to improve autism awareness and training within schools and other educational settings.

It also contains a pledge for there to be a “common baseline of content on autism” in all initial teacher education.

Local councils, professional bodies for teachers, autism organisations and others will work to share best practice.

Efforts will also be made to develop practical examples and strategies on how to support autistic children in the classroom.

The organisations involved say the plan will mean Scotland has the “most comprehensive set of measures anywhere in the UK to ensure all teachers have access to the most up to date information on how to support autistic learners”.

It comes after research in 2018 by Children in Scotland, the National Autistic Society Scotland and Scottish Autism found 34% of parents of autistic youngsters said their child had been unlawfully excluded from school in the last two years.

A lack of knowledge on how to best support and include autistic children in education was cited as the primary reason for these exclusions.

Nick Ward, director of National Autistic Society Scotland, said: “This package of changes will be life-changing for pupils and new teachers alike.

“It is the most comprehensive approach to ensuring high quality autistic education for new teachers in the UK and will ensure that hundreds of autistic children will have a better school experience.

“We must now ensure that all teachers have the opportunity to undertake the training and that it is informed fully by the experiences of autistic children and their parents.”

Education Secretary John Swinney said: “Through this collaborative working we will ensure that our autistic learners have the right support in place at the right time to improve their educational experiences.”

Sally Cavers, head of inclusion at Children in Scotland, said the changes are “significant”.

Charlene Tait, deputy chief executive at Scottish Autism, said: “As an organisation that has been calling for greater support and resources for those teaching autistic children, we warmly welcome this commitment from the Scottish Government.

“We know that hundreds of autistic children are not receiving an education that meets their needs, which is detrimental to both their education and their overall well-being.

“It is therefore essential that teachers are able to build an understanding during their initial teacher training of how autistic children think and learn.

“This training and knowledge has the potential to make significant improvements in the educational experiences of autistic children, however there is still much to be done.”