Thursday, 26 May 2011

Council promises only limited training for helping children with autism

At this morning's meeting of Cornwall's education scrutiny committee I raised the issue of the care of children with autism and other conditions within our schools. I asked the Head of Service for a commitment to provide training for teachers and other school staff.

The answer I got was a mixed blessing.

Over the course of the next academic year, the Council will ensure that all staff in Area Resource Bases will get full training. ARBs are the special education units based within some mainstream schools and which allow children with special educational needs to be educated in a specially designed environment but within a mainstream setting.

But most children with special educational needs are not schooled in ARBs. They attend mainstream schools and have statements which are meant to ensure that they get appropriate extra support. And the training that will be provided within mainstream schools is to be on a 'commissioned' basis. In other words, schools will have to pay for it and that means they will have to identify it as important enough and then find the money to pay for it out of scarce resources.

I have received good help from council officers when I have raised individual cases with them, but it is still the case that many school staff - both teachers and support staff - do not have the right training even for the more common conditions such as autism and behavioural difficulties. It may be that a school ensures that individual staff members who work most often with particular pupils have training, but that doesn't cover other staff who can react to some situations in an inappropriate way because of a lack of training.

And so the Council's commitment to more training, although welcome, does not go nearly far enough.

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