Developing Special Provision Locally: Review of Autism Education

Agenda Item no:
Autism Spectrum Disorder Topic Group
Hertfordshire Autism Scrutiny Background Paper – Education
(Integrated Services for Learning)
Debbie Orton - Head of Integrated Services For Learning
Local Context
1.1 In Hertfordshire, as elsewhere in the UK, children with autism are
educated in all types of our schools and settings. In January 2014 a
snapshot of data indicates:
809 children with autism were identified at School Action
826 children with autism had a statement of SEN. Of these
383 were in state funded special schools, 349 in
mainstream schools, 9 in a mainstream unit or base, 14 in
an Education Support Centre or alternative provision, 64 in
independent/non-maintained schools and 7 EHE (Elective
Home Educated).
230 children in mainstream (from those with statements or
at School Action Plus) were deemed to require exceptional
All schools have delegated and devolved budgets to meet the needs of
the vast majority of children and young people with SEN, including
autism. Schools have a SENCO, who must be a teacher, to coordinate
arrangements within the school and to liaise with external support
services if required. Schools can access materials and training
provided by the LA or externally.
Hertfordshire has a range of services providing advice and support to
schools, settings and families to help them meet the needs of children
with autism. These include educational psychologists, early years
specialists, outreach from special schools and ESCs. The
Communications Disorders Team includes 12 early years support
workers and 11 specialist teachers, all with professional qualifications
in autism. The team works supports families with young children with
autism in the home, and provides advice and input to early years
settings, schools and works closely with other provisions and services.
A wide range of training is provided each term and a 10 week modular
accredited course is delivered twice a year.
As part of the re-commissioning of special schools strand under
Developing Special Provision Locally, the nine learning difficulties (LD)
and six severe learning difficulties (SLD) schools were formally
designated by the DFE as having a specialism in autism. This reflected
the expertise which had developed in the schools to support the pupils
on their roll with autism. To further develop the schools’ practice and to
receive formal recognition of their expertise, it was decided to use the
National Autistic Society's demanding accreditation programme. In
order to achieve accreditation against Autism Accreditation standards,
an organisation must demonstrate robust evidence of its knowledge
and practice to advisers from the NAS. 10 Hertfordshire special schools
so far have gained the accreditation and 5 more schools are in the
process and anticipated to gain this by January. In addition, West Herts
College has also been awarded the accreditation and Oaklands
College is in the process of completing the audit.
Improving how the needs of children and young people with autism,
particularly those with high level needs, has been identified by the LA,
schools and parents as one of the DSPL priorities. An approach to this
was agreed earlier this year with full involvement of parents and
schools and a DSPL Autism Steering Group is overseeing the work.
Inevitably there are differing views about what services and provision
are needed and any choices about future developments need to be
informed by evidence, best practice and available resources. This work
is being facilitated by Dr Glenys Jones from the School of Autism,
Birmingham University to ensure an element of independent expert
perspective and constructive challenge.
There are 3 Phases to the approach:
Phase 1: (March to May/June 2014)
Discussions with parents and professionals to identify some of the
issues and a survey to schools and colleges with key questions. This
Phase has been completed and the emerging priority issues identified
have been fed back to parents and professionals. These issues have
informed what needs to be improved and shaped the tasks to be
undertaken at Phase 2.
Phase 2: (May to October/ November 2014)
Explore the main issues identified in Phase 1 by asking 3 of the 9
DSPL areas to consider ideas around 4 areas of work. DSPL Areas 4
(Broxbourne), 7 (St Albans) and 9 (Watford and 3 Rivers) are taking
part in Phase 2. A group of schools, parents, young people and
services in each Area will be carrying out the following tasks to explore
what an improved approach might look like locally:
TASK 1: Evaluating and enhancing whole school
DSPL Areas to trial the Autism Education Trust National
Standards in a number of mainstream and special schools
and consider idea of having a member of staff who is the
lead for autism
TASK 2: Parent/carer involvement with schools
DSPL Areas to identify key methods used to involve and
inform parents and carers and consider the barriers to
effective working together
TASK 3: Understanding and preventing behavior
which challenges staff and identifying children who
are vulnerable and very anxious
DSPL Areas to consider how they currently assess a
child’s behavior and emotional well-being and methods
used to support the child
TASK 4: Placement and funding issues
DSPL Areas to explore the data on where children with
autism who live in the Area are placed and on Exceptional
Needs funded children, within and outside the DSPL Area
and reasons for these placements and funding. There are
significant differences in the use of provision and
resources which need to be further understood in order to
understand what gaps there might be, what might need to
be developed/reshaped and learning from effective
practice in meeting local needs.
Phase 3: (October to December 2014/January 2015)
To reflect on the findings of the work by the 3 DSPL areas and consider
what might be generalized and developed across all Areas of the
County to improve the Hertfordshire local offer for autism.
Although this work has a key focus on the educational services and
provision for children and young people with high level autism it is part
of the overarching all age strategy multi-agency autism strategy.