Autism is Schools is a project that started in 2021. Originally a pilot in the North East, the project looks to improve pupils experience in mainstream schools, where they have/or may have autism.
The project is funded by NHS England and here in Greater Manchester is project managed by GMCA (Greater Manchester Combined Authorities.) There are 10 areas in GM and this year Bolton will be joining the project alongside Tameside as the final 2 areas.
Autism in Schools (AIS) requires schools to nominate themselves to be part of the project, and through this nomination they are agreeing to engage their whole school staff in training. Alongside training, parent groups and pupil groups will be created to feed into the project as to how the school could improve the experience of pupils who have/may have autism. In addition to this, the schools taking part will receive additional mental health support for their setting. Each year there is an aim to have 4 schools taking part in the project.
The training is broken down into 5 modules, that have been designed by the team that coordinates AIS, and look at everything from understanding autism, sensory needs, learning styles and more. These modules will be delivered to all staff in the schools that take part in the project, including non-teaching staff. This training is delivered to schools free of charge to the school.
At the start of the project parents and pupils will complete a survey describing their experiences in school; and they will fill the survey in again at the end. As well as looking at the school data on attendance and exclusion, these surveys will be able to evidence how the project has improved experiences.
The parent and pupil groups do not follow a prescribed plan, and can develop in each school to meet the needs of the parents and pupils. The groups will be facilitated by Bolton Parent Carers for the parents and another, yet to be decided, group for the pupils.
If funding continues after this year, the aim is to move onto a further 4 schools each year.
Here at Bolton Parent Carers we are very excited to be part of this project, it’s early days and schools have only just had the information shared, so we are eagerly awaiting news of the schools that would like to take part in our first year of the project!