Please be aware that this section contains information prepared in 2009 and may now be out of date. Some links may no longer work. We are reviewing this section.
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What does ‘inclusion’ mean?
The National Curriculum includes a clear statement about inclusion, setting out the principles by which all schools should embrace diversity and provide for all pupils individually.
The statutory inclusion statement states that schools must provide effective learning opportunities for all pupils based on their cultural, physical and learning needs. Every pupil, whatever their ability, should have the opportunity to experience success in learning at the highest possible standard. Teachers must identify and minimise barriers to learning and take account of gender, ability, disability, social, cultural and linguistic background when planning lessons. Provision must be made to enable all pupils to participate effectively in curriculum and assessment activities.
The National Curriculum Handbook for Secondary Teachers in England (QCA/99/458) contains a clear statement about inclusion, which permits teachers to modify the curriculum to ensure that children on the autism spectrum are set suitable learning challenges, that they can overcome potential barriers to learning and that the curriculum is adapted to meet such children’s learning needs.
Since Baroness Warnock introduced the concept of ‘inclusion’ for children with special educational needs (SEN) over 25 years ago, the debate about where children and young people with SEN should be educated has led to confusion amongst education professionals and a polarised approach to learning. For children and young people on the autism spectrum, many of whom will have SEN, the ‘inclusion’ debate is crucial. In the report make school make sense, published in 2006 by The National Autistic Society, the idea of ‘inclusion’ for pupils on the autism spectrum is redefined:
“Inclusion is not about placing children with autism in mainstream schools and ignoring difference by ‘treating all pupils the same’. It is about making appropriate provision to meet each child’s needs and reasonable adjustments to enable each child to access the whole life of the school. Every child with autism has different strengths, and a child’s individual needs should be the starting point for identifying what type of school they attend and the support they need in that setting.” (A link to the full report is given below.)
Inclusion in practice
To reach their full potential, children and young people on the autism spectrum, wherever they are educated, must have their individual educational and other needs recognised and supported. This can be a significant challenge for schools and has implications for the way in which the curriculum and individual lessons are planned and delivered.
The SEN Code of Practice (link given below) sets out clear guidelines for educational professionals working with children and young people on the autism spectrum. A whole-school approach is the most effective way of meeting the needs of children on the autism spectrum, regardless of type of provision. It is crucial that all staff within any type of provision coming into contact with a child on the autism spectrum are aware of, and understand that child’s individual needs, and have the knowledge and strategies in place to support that child. In addition, information about individual children on the autism spectrum should be effectively shared both within the school and with any external agencies working with that child.
Autism Spectrum Disorders: Good Practice Guidance (link given below) aims to raise awareness of and support for all children on the autism spectrum. A series of ‘pointers’ are listed with the guidance for schools to assess their inclusion policy for children and young people on the autism spectrum. Examples of good practice are given for each ‘pointer’.
It is important to appreciate the range of educational options available in order to properly plan for and support pupils on the autism spectrum. Dual placements (where a child can attend more than one school), for example, are an effective way to cater for pupils’ particular needs over a range of sites. A dual placement can prepare a pupil for mainstream school if currently taught in a specialist setting, or can offer additional support in a specialist setting and give the pupil a break from the mainstream.
In addition, ‘reverse inclusion’ can be a way to support a child with SEN in a specialist setting by inviting pupils from a mainstream school to attend some lessons in the specialist environment. Often, this is arranged for siblings of the child with SEN but can be extended to a wider peer group if appropriate. It can help build understanding and promote the expertise of the specialist school as well as preparing pupils in a special setting for a visit to the mainstream.
However, regardless of setting, autism expertise is of paramount importance to parents of children on the autism spectrum. If a child’s particular needs are not recognised, their behaviour might be incorrectly perceived as difficult or challenging. There is much that staff can do to prevent challenging behaviour in terms of environmental arrangements, analysing behaviour and managing children sensitively and effective inclusion depends on staff having sufficient expertise to do this.
Who can help?
Every mainstream school setting should have a Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) who is responsible for the effective support of all children and young people with SEN within the school (see separate section on SENCOs). The SENCO is a key person in relation to the identification, assessment, programme planning and review of the child’s progress. Staff within a school will look to the SENCO for information and guidance on how to meet the needs of children on the autism spectrum within the school.
Schools should ideally ensure that the whole school curriculum is tailored to the needs of children on the autism spectrum. The ‘Whole School Approach and Inclusion’ pointers given in the Autism Spectrum Disorders: Good Practice Guidance (link below) is useful for schools to assess their approach to the whole curriculum in relation to children and young people on the autism spectrum.
The SEN Code of Practice recommends the use of Individual Education Plans (IEPs) as a teaching and planning tool to record that which is additional to or different from the differentiated curriculum, which is in place for all children. The Code recommends that IEPs should focus on three or four individual targets, chosen from those relating to the key areas of communication, literacy, mathematics and behaviour and social skills. For a child on the autism spectrum the IEP might concentrate on targets to do with the development of communication, social understanding and flexibility of thought and behaviour.
The IEP might also include some important targets for developing independence skills and widening the child’s range of activities and experiences. Ways should be found to enable the full participation of parents and children in drawing up IEPs. (See separate section on IEPs for more information.)
Removing Barriers to Achievement is the government’s strategy for SEN. Published in 2004 it sets out the Government’s vision for giving disabled pupils and those with special educational needs the opportunity to succeed. It can be downloaded online (link given below) or ordered in hard copy via the Teachernet website.
Which educational professionals does this affect?
Autism prevalence is estimated at around 1 in 100 therefore all teachers should expect to teach children on the autism spectrum and all educational professionals should expect to come into contact with a child or young person on the autism spectrum. Effective inclusion in the life of the whole school is crucial to ensure all pupils on the autism spectrum have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Training for all education professionals is vital if they are to respond effectively to the challenges that children on the autism spectrum can pose and if parents are to feel confident that their child's needs are being met in school.
You should also refer to separate sections with this part of the website including:
- Statements / School Action / School Action Plus
- Mainstream / Specialist
- Individual Education Plans
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Removing Barriers to Achievement The Government’s Strategy for SEN
SEN Code of Practice Information from the Government for teachers and all educational professionals about their duties for ensuring all pupils with SEN are given appropriate help and support.
Inclusion - supporting individual learning needs This website provides a free catalogue of resources for teaching professionals, learners, parents and carers. Resources include publications, software, hardware, guidance and links to other organisations to aid independent living and learning
Inclusion Help and advice from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority
Autism Spectrum Disorders: Good Practice Guidance Information from Teachernet
Whole School Approach and Inclusion Pointers for schools to assess their inclusion policy for children on the autism spectrum
National Curriculum Handbook for Secondary School Teachers Contains clear guidance on inclusion for children and young people on the autism spectrum and the potential for modifying the National Curriculum to suit those pupils’ individual needs.
Inclusive Schooling: Children with Special Educational Needs Statutory Guidance, published by the DfES in 2001, for Local Authorities, Schools, Health and Social Services in England.
Behaviour Management: A Whole School Approach A practical guide for teachers in effectively managing pupil behaviour in school
Every Child Matters: Change for Children Government programme for a national framework to support the "joining up" of children’s services.
Towards Inclusion: A Whole School Approach Author: Helen Down, Source: Pastoral Care in Education, Volume 20, Number 3, September 2002, pp. 29-35(7) Publisher: Routledge, part of the Taylor & Francis Group
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The Statutory Inclusion Statement
Inclusion Development Programme Information about the Government’s Inclusion Development Programme which this year is focusing on resources to support pupils on the autism spectrum.
Better communication: Improving services for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs As part of the Inclusion Development Programme the government commissioned John Bercow MP to review services for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs resulting in The Bercow Review. This link provides information about the Review and further resources for teachers and education professionals including The Action Plan.
make school make sense Autism and Education: The reality for families today, published by The National Autistic Society.
The Best of Both Worlds? Parents' views on dual placements Author: Catherine Wilson, University of Leeds, Date: September 2006
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Westleigh High School: A College of Technology in Wigan An example of how a school can effectively provide tailored learning support for its pupils.
Derby City specialist Enhanced Resource for children with communication difficulties, including autism spectrum disorders. Good practice example of Teachernet.
Liverpool - Abbots Lea School, a specialist school for children and young people on the autism spectrum. Abbots Lea joined forces with a local secondary school, Speke Community School, to enable the inclusion of young people on the autism spectrum within a mainstream setting. Good practice example on Teachernet
Green Hedges School for children with severe learning difficulties, aged 2-19, at Stapleford in South Cambridgeshire and Fawcett Primary School in Trumpington, Cambridge both have school policies that promote inclusion and cover children on the autism spectrum. Good practice example on Teachernet
St George's CE Primary School in Worcester provides a whole school approach for children on the autism spectrum. All staff have received autism awareness training delivered by a specialist team within the county's support services and key staff have attended more intense training organised by both the local authority and the independent sector. Good practice example on Teachernet
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