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Terms of reference

Vision statement?


The Autism Education Trust believes that all children and young people with autism  should receive an education which enables them to reach their individual potential to engage in society as active citizens (and that individuals, families and professionals are informed, supported and equipped to enable this to be achieved).

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What is the Autism Education Trust?

The Autism Education Trust (AET) is funded by the Department of Education (DfE) and was founded by Ambitious about Autism (formally TreeHouse), The Council for Disabled Children (CDC) and The National Autistic Society (NAS).

The AET is a partnership of organisations with an interest in autism and works to improve education for children with autism. It is hosted on behalf of the partnership by the NAS.

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What is the AET hoping to achieve?


The purpose of the AET is to improve the education for children and young people with autism.

In order to help achieve this mission the Autism Education Trust will:

• disseminate  effective practice in responding to the education needs of children and young people on the autism spectrum through training and materials providing information and guidance

• undertake research to provide evidence of effective service models and practice in responding to the education needs of children and young people on the autism spectrum

• disseminate information regarding evidence-based and ‘best-practice’ approaches/services to policy makers, service commissioners and practitioners

• provide an interface between users, practitioners and policy makers in respect of service development

• ensure that full and proper engagement of stakeholders informs its work.

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Why do we need the Autism Education Trust?  

1. It is estimated that one per cent of children and young people in the UK have autism (reference)

2. The majority of children on the autism spectrum  are taught in a mainstream school but many need to attend specialist settings for some or all of their time in education.

3. Pupils with Statements of SEN are over 3 times more likely to be permanently excluded from school than the rest of the school population.  The 2006 NAS ‘Make school make sense’ survey  found 1 in 5 children in the sample had been excluded from school and 67% of these had been excluded more than once. It also identified that 40% of children with autism have been bullied.

4. There is a lack of evidence and information regarding service models and practices that maximize opportunities for children and young people with autism and which support them in achieving positive outcomes.

5. Access to effective services is inequitable across geographical areas and ethnic/socioeconomic groups.

6. Transition arrangements from children’s to adult services are often inadequate.

7. Policy makers and service commissioners often fail to take into account the views of children and young people on the autism spectrum and their carers.

8. Substantial public funds are invested in the education of children and young people on the autism spectrum. It is important that these funds are used wisely and have maximum impact. To enable this policy makers and service commissioners require independent and good quality information and advice.

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Governance Structure Overview

AET Programme Board


The remit of the Programme Board is to provide governance to the AET. This includes determination of vision, values, strategic direction and specific work streams. The Programme Board will support and hold the Director to account for the effective delivery of the strategy and specific work streams.  The Programme Board will support the Director in negotiating with government and other funders.  The Programme Board will ensure that its strategy and specific work streams are informed by the input of the Expert Reference Group and other relevant stakeholders. Nonetheless, final decision making responsibility sits with the Programme Board.





Adult with Autism (over 25 years)


Damien Milton

Young Person with Autism (aged 18-25)


Alex Rowley

Parent of a child with autism



NAS Representative


Carol Povey

Bid Partners (Ambitious about Autism and Autism Alliance)


Autism Alliance

Jolanta Lasota

Bob Lowndes

Workforce Development Representative


Chris Beek

Education Professional


Phil Christie

Autism Researcher

University of Birmingham

Glenys Jones

Director of AET


Steve Huggett

First Local Authority Representative


Mary Letheren-Jones

Second Local Authority Representative


To be appointed

SENCO or Head teacher Representative


To be appointed

The Programme Board members’ term of office is the two years of the DFE contract. Members will be paid an agreed day rate (if requested) and reasonable expenses for their attendance at meetings

Secretariat: AET

Leadership of the Programme Board:

The Programme Board will appoint a Chair and from among its membership. The term of Office for the Chair is the two years of the DFE contract, after which this will be reviewed.


The role of the Programme Board is to:
• Support the development of and approve the strategic plan for the AET and monitor the performance against plan.
• Approve the AET policies and oversee their implementation.
• Approve AET budget and monitor performance against budget.
• Be directly involved in the recruitment of the Director of the AET and input into their annual appraisal.
• Support the Director in the recruitment of other AET staff.
• Be involved in commissioning of contracts, as required.
• Act as Ambassadors for the AET.
• Support the Director in reporting to and negotiating with the Department of Education and other key funders and stakeholders.
• Appoint the Expert Reference Group.

Timescale and frequency of meetings

Meetings of the Programme Board will take place every two months with additional meetings if necessary.

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AET Expert Reference Group (ERG) Terms of Reference


To advise the Programme Board and staff team on the development and implementation of plans for the AET. To provide professional expertise to support the development and delivery of effective practice within the AET work programmes and to promote the AET to wider networks as a platform for collaboration.  

When defining membership we seek to maintain an effective balance of skills, knowledge and experience from within the autism education sector. We recognize that one individual may bring a range of the required experience. Key areas of expertise we have represented include:




Key stage one and two


Ryan Bradley

Key stage three and four


Annette Box

Mainstream setting


Jan Newport

Specialist setting


Sue Thompson

Integrated unit setting


Joy Beaney



Clare Henshaw



Maggi Rigg

Academy/free school


Clare Stockley



Shannon Coles

Head teacher


Penny Barrett

SEN Governor


Rona Tutt

Early years


Alex Stanyer



Liz Pellicano

Local Authority


Annette English

Parents/carers of children with autism


Mark Hill & Lynne Laverty

Young person or persons with autism


Alex Gibbs

Adult or adults with autism


Lana Grant

Dami Benbow

Health and social care sector SALT/OT, DCS, CAMHS etc.


Sue Fairhurst

Workforce development/training


Prithvi Perepa

Educational Psychology


Caroline Bond

Clinical Psychology


Claire Millward



Helen Bishton



Sally Mordi



Stephanie Dennis

AET Director


Steve Huggett

AET Project Manager


Sarah-Jane Critchley

Founding organisation/host

National Autistic Society

Jane Vaughan

Founding organisation/bid partner

Ambitious about Autism

Ian Adam Bellamy

Founding organisation/strategic partner

Council for Disabled Children (CDC)


Bid partner

Autism Alliance

Bob Lowndes

Observer members as stipulated by funders



Communication Trust

DSpLD Trust

Jenny Ballantyne

Jane Friswell

Anne Fox



Chair: Chair of Programme Board
Secretariat: AET Administrator 


The role of the Expert Reference Group is to:
• To provide expert advice and guidance to the Programme Board and staff.
• To provide a breadth and depth of experience in relation to autism and use that expertise to help the AET improve education for children on the autism spectrum and their families.
• To share examples of good practice with the autism community through the AET.
• To be actively involved and credible within the autism education sector.

Timescale and frequency of meetings

Meetings of the Expert Reference Group will take place quarterly. Additional meetings will be held as necessary.

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Sub groups

Sub-groups may be formed as required to provide advice and support on specific areas. They will report to the Programme Board as necessary. Individuals outside of the governance structures with specific areas of expertise may be appointed to these as agreed by the Programme Board.

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Non attendance at meetings:

Non attendance at 2 consecutive meetings may lead to a review of an individual’s membership of the ERG.

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The Role of the NAS as Host:

The NAS is responsible for providing Line management to the Director of the AET. The NAS is the contractual employer of all AET staff. In this role the NAS undertake to provide accommodation and support services to the AET and will charge the AET a reasonable amount for these services as agreed by the Programme Board through the budgeting process. The NAS holds IPR on behalf of the AET.

In addition the NAS will act as the contract holder with the Department for Education and will manage the contract accordingly.

Updated 9th June 2015

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