In 2018, Children in Scotland, Scottish Autism and the National Autistic Society Scotland published the Not included, not engaged, not involved report. This report highlighted the experiences of autistic children and young people in schools, particularly those missing large parts of their time in school through formal and informal exclusions, part-time timetabling or a lack of appropriate support.
The report identified several areas which could improve the experiences of autistic children and young people as well as their parents and carers. One of the core issues identified through parental surveys in the report was a need for a greater understanding, within schools, of autism itself and how a child's autism affects them, particularly in relation to how they communicate.
Following publication of this report, a roundtable discussion, chaired by the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, was held with key autism stakeholders in 2019 to discuss and agree next steps. The roundtable group included Scottish Autism, National Autistic Society, AMASE and Children in Scotland. This led to the establishment of an Autism in Schools Short-Life Working Group to explore the following four key asks from the Deputy First Minister:
- To ensure a common baseline of content on autism during the delivery of Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programmes
- More distillation of inclusive pedagogical work to ensure a deeper understanding within the system
- Wider sharing of quality practice by Education Scotland, local authorities, professional associations, autism organisation and others and evidence of good standards
- How we ensure a continuum of support for ongoing professional practice and development.
To deliver these original asks, the Short-Life Working group developed an action plan and this was published in December 2020, which included a commitment to report progress to the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills by December 2021.