The Government’s new autism strategy How will the new strategy improve wellbeing and educational outcomes for autistic pupils?

On 21st July 2021, The Department of Health and Social Care and The Department for Education published a National strategy for autistic children, young people and adults: 2021 to 2026.

The strategy offers the government’s intentions to improve the lives of autistic people and their families and carers in England. It builds on the previous strategy: Think Autism, which was published in Spring 2014. 

How did the Think Autism Strategy change? 

On 19th March 2019, The Department of Health and Social care and The Department for Education published: Review of the National Autism Strategy ‘Think Autism': call for evidence. 2 surveys, 2,745 responses and 7 focus groups considered the strategy around 4 themes: 

  • Autistic student - Autism strategy to improve wellbeing and education for autistic pupilsBeing part of the local community
  • Getting the right support at the right time
  • Developing skills and independence and working to the best of your ability 
  • Progress and priorities for future action

Being a part of the local community 

The community’s understanding of autism

Respondents of the survey reported that, in general, the people and organisations in their local area had poor understanding of autism and the needs of autistic people. 

The study also considered: ‘taking part in the community’. 

Getting the right support at the right time

This theme focussed on ease of access to information for autistic people. Are they able to access information on the care and support they need to live healthy, fulfilling lives?

Support during education

The new autism strategy is being extended to include children and young people for the first time, so the review asked questions about the support that autistic people received throughout their educational life from early years to higher education. 

‘Almost half of autistic respondents (47%) reported that they felt poorly supported in their education, while 19% said the support they received was mixed. Only 5% said they felt well supported.’

The study also considered: People’s experience of getting a diagnosis, Professional understanding of autism. 

Developing skills and independence and working to the best of your ability

This theme was included to develop understanding of the support that autistic people could access to help them develop the skills they need to live independent lives. Survey questions also considered the amount of support received in the transition from school to paid work, and the support from employers once work has begun. 

Support when leaving school or college

‘Almost half of autistic respondents (47%) said they felt poorly supported. The majority of carer respondents (87%) and half of organisation respondents (50%) said this question was not relevant to them or did not provide an answer. However, 5% of carers and 20% of organisations did report poor support.’

The study also considered: Support to help find a job. 

Progress and priorities for future action

This part of the review asked respondents what they thought of the progress made since the publication of Think Autism, and what they wanted to see improve in future. 

Students in classroom - Autism strategy to improve wellbeing and education for autistic pupilsThe following was identified:

  • Inclusion in the local community
    • Improving public understanding of autism
    • Improving inclusion of autistic people in their community
    • improving access to mental health services
  • Getting the right support
    • Support from general practitioners (GPs)
    • Access to social care and community support
    • Improving support to get into employment
    • Improving support from Jobcentres
    • Improving autism understanding in schools
    • Making schools and support in education more accessible

You can read more about the review, including summaries of the focus group findings, on the Gov.uk website: Summary of findings from the government’s review of the National Autism Strategy 'Think Autism': call for evidence

The new strategy - how can the Autism Education Trust help?

The Autism Education Trust is a not-for-profit educational organisation which supports autistic children and young people in their educational life. Our training modules and materials are offered through our Partners who tailor support to the needs of autistic people in their local community. 

The findings of the review have introduced the new 5-year strategy: National strategy for autistic children, young people and adults: 2021 to 2026. 

The strategy has 6 main areas which intend to make things better for autistic people:

  • Helping people to understand autism. 

How the AET can help: Consider our awareness-raising module. Appropriate for everyone, whether they be teachers, learning support assistants, school meal supervisors, or taxi drivers.

Explore our modules

  • Helping autistic children and young people at school.

How the AET can help: explore our free online resources including the Progression Framework, which monitors the progress of individual pupils, the Standards Framework, which considers leaders and leadership groups and the Competency Framework, for individual staff within the setting.

  • Helping autistic people to find jobs.

How the AET can help: Explore the Transition to Employment Toolkit.

  • Making health and social care services equal for autistic people.
  • Making sure autistic people get help from their communities.

How the AET can help: contact your local training partner to get tailored support for your education setting. The AET license holder for your local area will plan their own autism strategy with the needs of autistic people in their local community at the forefront. Find out how they can help you: Find your local training partner

  • Help for autistic people in the justice system.

Find out more in their easy read version of the strategy: The national strategy for autistic children, young people and adults: 2021 to 2026

The Autism Education Trust’s Training is the only Department for Education supported, CPD accredited, Autism Training which is co-produced with parents, teachers and autistic young people. Find out more about the not for profit.