HC Deb 05 November 1998 vol 318 cc631-3W
Dr. Kumar

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he is taking (1) to ensure that educational authorities in Scotland have sufficient funds to develop new services for autistic children; and if he will make a statement; [57615]

(2) to instruct each education authority within the meaning of section 145 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1962 to provide him with information on the provision of special educational facilities for children who suffer from autism or other forms of early childhood psychosis; and if he will make a statement; [57618]

(3) to issue specific guidance on education services for autistic children in Scotland; and if he will make a statement; [57616]

(4) to ensure that each child with autism in Scotland receives a relevant educational service; and if he will make a statement; [57617]

(5) to collect information centrally on autistic children in Scotland; and if he will make a statement; [57620]

(6) to issue specific guidance on services for autistic children in Scotland; and if he will make a statement. [57619]

Mrs. Liddell

Education authorities have a statutory duty to secure the adequate and efficient provision of education for the children in their respective areas, including children with special educational needs. The services which any particular authority chooses to provide for its area and the nature of educational provision deemed suitable for any particular child at any given time, including a child with special educational needs, is a matter for it to decide in the first instance. The costs of services provided by authorities are met from their general funding.

The Framework for Mental Health Services for Scotland published in September 1997 provides a template by which Local Authorities and Health Boards in Scotland will work together to respond to the assessed needs of their local population in respect of the organisation of mental health services including where appropriate services for children and adolescents.

The Scottish Office Education and Industry Department commissions research and development work over a range of special education issues aimed at helping education authorities and other interested organisations to offer more effective provision. In June 1997 it published Interchange No. 46: Educational Provision for Children with Autism in Scotland (ISSN 0969–613X). This reports the results of a study examining where and how children with autistic spectrum disorders throughout Scotland are being educated. The project aimed to: (a) develop an educational definition of autism to identify those children who need specific forms of education regardless of whether there is a formal diagnosis of an autistic spectrum disorder; (b) identify the number of children reported to have autistic spectrum disorders in Scotland and the type of educational placements they attend; (c) identify the kinds of educational practice with respect to these children and to highlight any issues of satisfaction or concern with those practices, as expressed by parents and professionals; and (d) identify good practice in the education of these pupils and to make recommendations based on examples of good practice in Scotland and elsewhere.

A copy of Interchange No. 46 was distributed to all headteachers, directors of education, teachers' associations and voluntary organisations in Scotland. A copy has been placed in the House of Commons Library.

The Government wish to improve provision for special education needs and in May this year it issued Special Educational Needs in Scotland: A Discussion Paper. This paper seeks views on how the existing arrangements for special educational needs provision can be improved and made more responsive to the requirements of children with special educational needs and their families. Both Autism (Scotland) and the National Autistic Society have submitted a response. The response to the Discussion Paper as a whole is currently being evaluated and the Government will respond shortly.

Information on the school population is collected annually by the Scottish Office in the school census. The census undertaken in September 1998 requested for the first time information on children with autistic spectrum disorder.