Earlier this year 7,000 people, including teachers (and myself), wrote to Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, requesting that autism be included in the ongoing review of the initial teacher training framework in England. In response to a question posed during Prime Minister’s Questions recently, Chancellor George Osborne confirmed the Government’s intentions to make autism a mandatory training subject for teachers in England.
“The Education Secretary shares her concern and has personally raised the issue with the chair of the initial teacher training review, Stephen Munday. My right hon. Friend has stressed the importance of ensuring that teachers are properly trained to support young people with special educational needs and specifically autism. As a result, the chairman will include recommendations in the report on how core teacher training should cover special educational needs. The report will be published shortly.”
Yes, that’s right. Autism training is not mandatory for teachers. In fact, some have no special educational needs training at all. The teachers and lecturers are not the ones responsible for asking for it to be part for their training. I know so many friends that take up extra reading to better understand the people they teach who are on the spectrum. I think a teacher is one of the most important people we interact with. My friends are teachers. This is not their fault – the fact that no one has thought to include basic disability training in teacher training is the government’s fault – because, instead of investing in the future they are busy blaming each other about the past, leaving them unable to deal with complex issues that could damage a child’s education. The diagnosed autism rate in the UK at the moment is 1 in 100. With over 70% attending mainstream schools the odds that a teacher will teach, or has taught a child on the spectrum are pretty high.
Teacher training in autism is adding value to the teacher’s education and work. They can understand their pupils even better, they can update their curriculum, they can adopt, invent different ways of teaching.
Teacher training in autism enhances the autistic student’s education. It means that they are acknowledged, it means that they get the help they need, it means that they are less prone to being isolated because of being left behind.
Teacher training in autism benefits the rest of the class. It means that inclusivity, equality and understanding is promoted much earlier on. Children will learn to embrace and support their peers rather than bully them. If students attend a friendly, helpful and understanding environment every day, if their role models are equipped to handle tricky or exceptional situations, it will transcend into the way they interact with people for the rest of their lives.
This is our legacy for generations to come.
This isn’t just an initiative. This isn’t just one balloon.
This is a million blue balloons all at once.
The amazing lecturers I get to call my friends wishing Christos a Happy Birthday for #Project324. And happy 3rd birthday to the gorgeous little Elisa ❤️