RUNCTON HOLME: Autism team could be axed in shake-up by county
A specialist team that advises schools on how to cope with autistic pupils is at threat of being cut – with potential implications for all children.
The five-strong autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) team, which works across the county, may be axed as part of a shake-up of provision for children with special educational needs.
Claire Clarke, 40, of School Road, Runcton Holme, whose son Harry is autistic, said: “It will not only affect the children themselves but their one-to-ones, class teachers and other children in the class if the autistic behaviours become a distraction.”
Mrs Clarke, an instrumental music teacher, at Fakenham High School, said the team was vital in assisting Harry, aged eight, in surviving in mainstream education before he secured a place at a specialist facility in Dereham.
Autism affects the development of communication, social and imaginative skills and without the right support and care children can become distressed, aggressive, disruptive or withdrawn.
Currently schools can call upon the ASD team to assess children and develop individual solutions to prevent issues escalating.
Mrs Clarke said: “Parents will be left to rely upon someone within the school having done some training and being open to trying different approaches.”
Michael Batemen, additional needs strategy and commissioning manager in children’s services at Norfolk County Council, said the results of a consultation which could affect staff numbers in the ASD team were being assessed.
He said: “The county council agreed two years ago, following public consultation via the Big Conversation, to make a number of changes to how Special Educational Needs (SEN) support works in Norfolk.
“This is part of an ongoing local and national drive to make sure the majority of Dedicated School Grant funding (ie, school budget money) is with schools and not the local authority.
“As part of these funding changes – with schools now holding the vast majority of the funding for SEN pupils – some adjustments will need to be made to staffing but only after formal consultation with staff, which started in January.
“This consultation to change staffing levels included the five members of the autistic spectrum disorder teaching assistant team.”
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