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 government since that time. Over 30,000 education staff have been trained across England by the AET programme since 2012. The AET has a mission to improve the education of young people with autism.
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 government since that time. Over 66,000 education staff have been trained across England by the AET programme since 2012.
The AET has a mission to improve the education of young people with autism. This mission is realised through:
- the identification and promotion of high standards and effective practice in autism education practice
- providing training to support effective practice
- disseminating information regarding evidence-based good practice approaches/services to policy makers, commissioners and practitioners
- providing a network for practitioners and policy makers to develop provision and services
- ensuring that full engagement of stakeholders including people with autism 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 unique partnership it supports between voluntary bodies and the maintained sector including schools, colleges, early years settings, Local Authorities and universities.
- 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
Two successive government funded national programmes from 2011-2015
In the summer of 2011 the Department for Education (DfE) awarded the AET funding to deliver an ambitious 2 year programme to raise workforce competency. Following the success of this programme it was extended and developed with a further contract in 2013. As a result the AET now offers the biggest national training programme for education based staff. This comprises:
- 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)
- National Autism Standards which allow school self review and are hyperlinked to resources. These are free to download from the AET website.
- A Competency Framework to guide professional development hyperlinked to resources. These are free to download from the AET website.
BirminghamUniversity’s Autism Centre for Education Research (ACER) has developed training materials and the standards/competency frameworks which are delivered by 11 regional hubs across England.
For Early Years
A brand new programme is being developed and rolled out in 2013 for all Early Years settings. It contains three tiers of training which have been developed in consultation with staff, training providers, individuals on the autism spectrum, parents and carers:
1. Making sense of autism
For raising awareness of staff in all early years settings, whether or not they work directly with children with autism. Free until April 2015.
2. Developing good autism practice
For all staff who work regularly with children with autism.
3. Building on existing knowledge and taking a lead in autism
For all staff who need further knowledge on autism and/or who may train or lead other staff in their setting.
Initially the training is restricted to 4 areas of England: West Midlands, East Midlands, Yorkshire and Humberside and North East. It is hoped to extend this to the rest of England from 2015.
For Post 16 Providers
A brand new programme is being developed and rolled out in 2013 for all College and other post 16 provision. It contains three tiers of training which have been developed in consultation with staff, training providers, individuals on the autism spectrum, parents and carers:
- 1. Raising awareness
Basic autism awareness training for teaching or non-teaching staff within a post 16 setting (including office staff; governors; caretakers; drivers and escorts). Free until April 2015
- 2. For professionals
Practical knowledge, hands-on tools and techniques for all staff working directly with young people on the autism spectrum (including tutors; staff; teachers).
- 3. For leaders
For all staff who need further knowledge on autism and who may take a leadership role within a post 16 setting (including lead practitioners for autism; SENCos; inclusion managers).
Initially the training is restricted to 4 areas of England: London, South East, West Midlands and East Midlands. It is hoped to extend this to the rest of England from 2015.
The Impact of the programme
The programme has been very well received by practitioners. As of May 2014:
- Over 29,000 school staff have been trained at level 1, nearly 4,000 at level 2 and nearly 1,000 at level 3.
- Since 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.
- Since the AET Competency Framework was published in September 2012 we are receiving regular feedback from schools that this supporting staff CPD in this area of expertise.
Independent evaluation from University of Warwick CEDAR unit has found:
- Very positive feedback with over 9 out of 10 participants reporting that the training was worthwhile or very worthwhile
- Statistically significant gains in the knowledge of staff.
- Growing evidence that the training is having impact on provision and practice in the classroom.
- High levels of staff expressing interest in training to a higher level.
The programme was also 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 was:
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.