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AET Project Brief – Developing the AET training materials for the Early Years sector

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AET Project brief - Training Hubs - NOW CLOSED.

The Autism Education Trust has been awarded a contract by the Department for Education (DfE) for the development and delivery of an integrated programme of training and materials over the period 2013/15. 
The new programme will build on the success of the AET’s 2011/13 DfE funded programme. It replicates the structure of the previous programme and applies it to 4 English regions not covered in 2011/13, develops it to meet Early Years and Post-16 settings as well as developing new resources for parents and Local Authorities. 

This document sets out the brief for the part of the new programme which covers the development of the existing AET training materials, Standards and Competency Framework for use in the Early Years sector.  An application pro forma is available with this brief.

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To adapt and develop the AET training materials and associated AET Education Standards and AET Competency Framework for use in the early years sector.

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The Autism Education Trust 
The Autism Education Trust (AET) was founded in 2007 by Ambitious about Autism (formally Tree House), The Council for Disabled Children (CDC) and The National Autistic Society (NAS) and has received consistent support from both governments since that time.

The  vision of the AET is that all children and young people with autism should receive an education which enables them to engage in society as active citizens and that their families and the professionals who work with them are informed, supported and equipped to enable this to be achieved. 

In order to achieve this, the AET has a mission to improve the education of young people with autism. 

The AET achieves its mission through: 

  • the identification and promotion of high standards in autism education practice
  • the identification and promotion of effective practitioner competency in support of those standards
  • providing a platform for training in effective practice in support of improved competency 
  • disseminating information regarding evidence-based and good practice approaches/services to policy makers,  commissioners and practitioners
  • providing  an interface between users, practitioners and policy makers in respect of service development
  • ensuring that full and proper engagement of stakeholders informs its work and facilitating the engagement  of stakeholders with government

The AET is in a unique position to carry out these activities because of:

  • Its independence
  • The partnership it supports between voluntary bodies and voluntary bodies and the maintained sector
  • The active role of people with autism in the work and governance of the AET.
  • Its national brief
  • Its  focus on practical activity in education contexts

The 2011-13 AET programme

In the summer of 2011 the DfE awarded the AET funding to deliver an ambitious 2 year programme to raise workforce competency through:

  • Delivering autism training for school staff  at level 1 (general awareness), level 2 (for staff working with young people with autism on a daily basis) and level 3 (for specialists such as SENCOs)
  • Integrating this training with national standards for schools for autism education. 
  • Developing a competency framework to guide professional development 

Birmingham University were commissioned to develop the training materials and the standards and 7 regional hubs were commissioned to deliver the training. The programme was rolled out successfully. As of March 2013:   

  • Over 10,500 school staff have been trained at level 1, over 850 at level 2 and nearly 200 at level 3.
  • The AET Standards were published in May 2012 and there has been strong interest and positive feedback from schools. There is now evidence of the standards being used in schools and strategically in some LAs on a whole LA basis. More surprisingly there has been a high engagement from parents with email feedback and enquiries at the AET stands at national events and shows. 
  •  An AET Competency Framework was published in September 2012 which provides a structure for professional development. We are now receiving regular feedback from schools that this supporting staff CPD in this area of expertise. 

Interim evaluation from University of Warwick CEDAR unit has found:

For level 1

  • Very positive feedback  with robust evidence of staff moving on to level 2 as a result if undertaking level 1 training.
  • Level 1 AET training materials have been successful in raising the knowledge, awareness and understanding of the majority of the participants, including those with previous experience of working with pupils on the autism spectrum.
  • There was a highly significant rise in pre- and post-training mean total score on the Knowledge Quiz (p < .001). 
  • Over 8 out of 10 thought the training was ‘worthwhile’.

For level 2 and 3 

  • Very positive feedback with over 95% indicating the training was worthwhile and had increased their knowledge
  • 93% of level 2 delegates and 97% of level 3 delegates  were interested in further training 

The programme was also been reviewed by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism which published its report The right start: reforming the system for children with autism in June 2012. The report’s first recommendation is:
The Government should continue funding for the Autism Education Trust (subject to evaluation) to enable it to expand the development of a three-tier training programme beyond March 2013. In particular it should include areas of the country not already covered. These are the South West, East and North East of England as well as Yorkshire and Humberside. It should be extended to provide training to staff in post-school settings, such as further education colleges, in line with plans for a holistic 0-25 SEN system.

The diagram below sets out the broad structure of both the 2011/13 and the new 2013/15 programme.

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Materials to be adapted and developed

The AET has successfully developed and delivered a suite of materials for schools which provide training at 3 levels linked to AET National Standards and the AET Competency Framework. This brief is to adapt these materials so that they are applicable to the early years sector while at the same time preserving the structure and approach of the original materials. This brief and the funds available to deliver it will mean that the starting point for this work is the existing suite of AET materials aimed at schools. These are summarised below.

The current level 1, 2 and 3 training materials 

There are three levels of training which are aimed towards professionals in schools with different needs:
Level 1- Basic autism awareness training for teaching or non-teaching staff within any school setting who need an understanding of autism in their role (including office staff; governors; caretakers; drivers and escorts).
Level 2- For all staff working directly with children on the autism spectrum (including teaching assistants; lunchtime staff; teachers).
Level 3 - For all staff who need further knowledge on autism (including lead practitioners for autism; SENCOs; inclusion managers). Entry level via Level 2 or equivalent.

The AET National Autism Standards 

The National Autism Standards are designed to facilitate self evaluation by all types of educational settings from mainstream to special, for pupils from the ages of 5 - 16 years, at all levels of ability. 

The 43 Standards are organised in four broad areas which replicate the structure of the training programme:

  • Individual pupil factors
  • Building relationships
  • Curriculum and learning
  • Enabling environments

This enables a close link to be established between the self evaluation exercise and the AET training programme. Additionally, there are interactive links from the set of Standards to resources that demonstrate how a school or provider might improve practice or policy. 

The AET Competency Framework

An interlinked part of the AET programme is a professional competency framework for autism education. The framework describes the knowledge, understanding and skills that staff working in schools and other educational settings require to work effectively with pupils on the autism spectrum. There are 57 competencies in total, 33 addressing core skills and 24 advanced competencies. The AET Competency Framework adopts the same four strand structure as the National Standards and the AET training programme and provides a clear framework against which staff can reflect upon and evaluate their practice. Thus it aims to provide a source of guidance to help schools assess and develop capacity within their workforce to improve outcomes for pupils on the autism spectrum. Schools will then be able to plan and provide effective and relevant training programmes to meet the needs of individual members of staff and the AET training programme links directly into this.

Full information on all the above materials can be accessed through the links at the end of this page.

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Key elements in developing the materials for early years use

The two drivers that will determine the development of the school targeted materials for early years use are the age of the individuals and the different nature of the settings for their learning. We would expect the successful contractor to address this within the constraints of time and resourcing through:

  • Researching the available literature and materials including latest developments in the early years
  • Consulting with children’s  families, adults with autism and in some circumstances, the children themselves
  • Consulting with professionals who are experienced in working in the early years phase.
  • Trialling draft materials in early years educational provision.

Final materials produced will be required to be helpful in a wide range of educational contexts meeting the needs of very diverse individuals.

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What key skills / capabilities are important to us?

The chosen organisation will be able to offer:

  • Staff with a comprehensive knowledge of research and approaches in autism education
  • A track record in working for and with people across the spectrum, whether they have High Functioning Autism / Asperger Syndrome or have classical autism with or without other learning difficulties. (Although this can  be provided by a partner organisation to the bidder)
  • An understanding of the needs of children in their early years and experience of a wide range of early years provision. 
  • A track record of developing high quality training materials with independent evaluation of its effectiveness.
  • A track record of developing materials for a national programme would be advantageous.
  • A track record of engaging with end users including young people with autism, their families and practitioners in the field. 
  • An understanding of the wider education policy framework including the current broader context of the new SEND legislation and of early years/education CPD

Bidders should state where their research team includes researchers with autism and how their skills will be used in this work.

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Timetable for key deliverables

The delivery timetable is quite tight but experience with the 2011/13 programme shows that it is doable. A suggested timetable is set out below:

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The total budget for this part of the 2013/15 AET programme is £120k inclusive of VAT. This will cover all costs including any subcontracted work producing the final materials and inducting the new training hubs in their use. The payment of fees will be heavily front-loaded to reflect the balance of the development work required so that funding released for 2013/14 will be £95k and for 2014/15 will be £25k.

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Further information

Organisations who are interested in competing for this work should submit the proforma available with this brief by May 3rd 2013.   Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on May 22nd or May 23rd 2013.

For an overview of the AET please see the AET website at 
For individual queries please email our Administrator, Peggy Freyne at We will either respond to your query by email or arrange a phone call if necessary.

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Relevant Documents and links

Early years materials development Proforma - word document

The AET Training Programme for schools
The AET National Autism Standards
The AET Competency Framework