Dame Caroline Dinenage, Member of Parliament for Gosport, and former Minister of State for Care at the Department of Health and Social Care will this week hold a Parliamentary debate on Autism and Learning Disability Training for Education Staff.
Caroline is due to highlight the urgency of training for education staff on how to best meet the needs of autistic children and children with learning disabilities and special educational needs.
The debate comes following the success of the Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training, which Caroline initiated during her time as a Health Minister (2018-2020) and which became law in the Health and Care Act 2022. It is now the government’s preferred and recommended training for health and social care staff.
The training is named after Oliver McGowan, a young man whose death shone a light on the need for health and social care staff to have better skills, knowledge and understanding of the needs for autistic people and people with a learning disability. Paula, Oliver’s mum, started a petition calling for a new law that would require all staff in educational settings to be trained on learning disability and autism.
Research from the National Autistic Society showed that while 87% of teachers surveyed feel confident or very confident in supporting autistic pupils in the classroom, yet findings from their 2021 report show that seven in ten autistic children and young people said school would be better if more teachers understood autism.
In her speech, Caroline is due to highlight the benefits this will have both on teachers and to their students.
Speaking before the debate, Caroline said:
“This will be a great opportunity to discuss what more can be done to support both autistic students and students with a learning disability, and their teachers.
“It is vital that every child feels empowered and supported to achieve their full potential, and that their teachers also feel well equipped to recognise their needs.”
Paula McGowan, Oliver McGowan’s mum said:
“I am delighted that Dame Caroline Dinenage has brought my petition forward asking for an adapted version of The Oliver McGowan Mandatory training on learning disability and autism for Education Staff.
“We know that Oliver’s training for Health and Social care has had a significant impact for both neurodivergent patients and health and care staff.
“I am incredibly grateful that ministers will be discussing the importance of Oliver’s training in education for both teachers who want to be able to better understand and support autistic children and those who have a learning disability to reach their full potential in an educational setting that is enriching, accepting and inclusive.
“I know that Oliver would be delighted to be helping other neurodivergent people like himself to have much better experiences than he did.”