Supporting best autism practice


Promotional feature

It is estimated that approximately one in 100 people are on the autism spectrum. The number of people receiving an autism diagnosis is rising mostly because of early identification and more effective systems of assessment. The increasing number of children and young people with autism in all types of educational settings presents challenges to staff at a time when resources are stretched and school leaders face many competing demands. It also creates a massive challenge for local authorities in promoting appropriate local provision for pupils with autism identified as needing SEN support and who may have a statement or EHC plan.

Ten years ago, the Department for Education responded to these challenges and funded the Autism Education Trust (AET) to provide effective support to the education community, including special and specialist schools.

Leading the way in autism education

Founded on research into best autism education practice with the direct involvement of people with autism, the AET developed a support programme with four key elements:

  • A national set of autism standards against which schools, early years and post 16 settings can audit their practice and plan improvement
  • A competency framework for practitioners – to support self-reflection and to plan CPD
  • A modular, face-to-face training programmebasic awareness for all staff; good autism practice for practitioners who work directly with children and young people with autism; and leading good practice for SENCOs, managers and strategic leads who can affect change within a setting
  • A community of practice where schools, early years and post-16 settings and their practitioners can secure ongoing and local support.

Fully supporting all educational settings 0-25

The AET programme is much more than a modular training programme. It offers a wealth of resources and all the necessary tools supporting practitioners in all aspects of their work. One of the most popular resources, the AET progression framework, is an assessment tool supporting staff in identifying learning priorities and measuring progress in areas that fall outside the national curriculum, and is free to download from AET’s website. The programme also addresses the needs of special and specialist schools too in supporting children with complex needs.

National programme, local knowledge

The AET programme is delivered though licensed local training partners or “hubs” supported by regional strategic partners. This ensures that the benefits of the expert-led national programme is complemented with the understanding of the local context and the specific needs of each educational setting. AET training hubs operate in local authority areas and are typically existing local authority outreach services, voluntary sector organisations, commercial training providers and teaching schools. Through its DfE funding support, AET ensures its partners have access to high-quality, evidence informed, nationally recognised and systematically reviewed resources.

Case study:
Birmingham Communication and Autism Team

Birmingham CAT became a training hub for the schools programme in 2011.
“The AET programme focuses on autism as a difference not a deficit. It puts the child and young person at the heart of the process. It is their voice that is heard through the training. The programme is evidence-based and offers a framework for schools to include in their SEN Information Report. Evaluations indicate that 98 per cent of those attending strongly agree that the training will have a positive impact on practice and their ability to support children with autism. Demand for the training continues to be high.” Pamela Simpson, assistant team manager at CAT
“I like the way the different elements of the programme support each other. The framework gives you a follow up after the training has finished to ensure that the lessons learned have an impact on practice. We intend to use the framework regularly so the best practice becomes embedded.” Feed-back from a training delegate.

Get in contact

For more information about our training and for a wealth of free resources, please visit: or contact: [email protected]

If you are interested in joining our community of delivery partners, please contact: [email protected]


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