Minister's challenge on autism achievement

Teachers and other school staff will need to change their attitude if poor academic performance among autistic pupils is to be challenged, Sarah McCarthy-Fry has said.

The schools minister believes a change in schools' ethos is needed to boost the GCSE results of teenagers with autism and has called for teachers to develop greater understanding of the condition.

Government statistics show 27 per cent of autistic pupils are excluded from school at some point, and 23 per cent have been excluded more than once. In 2007, only 22 per cent of pupils with autistic spectrum disorder got five good GCSEs. There are 133,500 pupils with autism in the UK and 70 per cent are educated in mainstream schools.

Speaking at the first national conference of the Autism Education Trust - a body part-funded by the Department for Children, Schools and Families - in Westminster, Mrs McCarthy Fry said helping autistic children was "not just about improving access to services".

"It is about improving the experience of young people going through their education," she said. "It's about changing the ethos of schools, changing attitudes and behaviours, and teachers are a huge part of that.

"We need to build their understanding of autistic spectrum disorders and how to meet the needs of those children.

"Even one child prevented from achieving their potential is one too many. Not only do we want disabled young people to have the same opportunities as their peers - through better access to education and services - but we also want them to have a good experience of education and childhood."

AET funding from the Government will rise from the current Pounds 320,000 to Pounds 500,000 in the next academic year.

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