22 Mar

Graham

Another week passes.

On Tuesday I spent the afternoon with Professor Barry Carpenter. Barry has just written a new book, ‘Girls and Autism’ (click here for details).

Barry and I go back a long way. He has been instrumental in shaping much of our practice within New Bridge. We talked about the 1970 Education Act (we are planning a 50 year celebration for 2020) and the journey our sector has taken since then. The 1970 Act ensured all children and young people had the right to be educated in school. In 1970, Barry was one of the early advocates of ensuring all our children deserved an equal right to high quality schooling.

Since that date Barry has always been at the forefront of understanding future trends.

In the early 2000s Barry identified a rising group of young people with profound and multiple learning disabilities who would move into the school sector. He gave us all a resource (the CLDD research project) that offered classroom staff practical solutions to working with young people working at lower levels. He gave us an insight into assessing the needs of these youngsters. Schools responded accordingly and some of most vibrant departments in our trust support these learners.

Around 2010 he researched the rise in numbers of children with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. It has been transformational in our approach to teaching these children.

The work he has done on employment and housing has helped transform our ambitions for our pupils and students. Almost every week I am told about another youngster moving into the world of work.

So, on to Tuesday’s conversation. Over the last few years Barry has led a team of researchers that has focused upon girls with autism. Established thinking would have us believe that the ratio of boys to girls who are on the continuum is around 4:1. Barry’s work has clearly evidenced that the actual ratio is probably 2:1. On the back of this work he has also uncovered a fact that the latest statistic, in Northern Ireland, suggests that 3.9% of ALL children are on the continuum. The latest English statistic suggests just 1%. So a suggested gap of 2.9% and a massive undiagnosed female population. Our schools have to respond to these pressures.

These facts are essential for us to make sensible plans for the future.

Barry and I both work with central and local government to try and get them to understand the changing needs of our school populations. We have to research, we have to lobby, we have to ensure we advocate for this growing group of children.

I’ve made my position clear in previous blogs. There isn’t a simple solution. It will take a multi faceted approach to ensure the school sector is prepared to meet the needs of our changing populations. It will take investment, it will take bold leadership, it will take a change in the inspection framework. We will need to prepare our educators with the skills required to teach and support our learners of the future.

Our trust is at the forefront of managing these challenges. It’s at the forefront of our developments because we are connected with people like Barry. His moral purpose, his knowledge, his ambition and his values are shaped by a passion for equality.

Thank you for your insight Barry – our children, our teams, our families and our stakeholders are up for this next challenge.

Have a great weekend,

Graham

If you would like to read more about girls and autism, please click here for a list of suggested publications and some useful links.

You can find all Graham’s previous blog entries here