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Sarah McCarthy-Fry speaks at AET conference

The Autism Education Trust held its first National Conference, ‘Sharing Good Practice’, at Central Hall in Westminster, London on Thursday 26th February 2009.  Sarah McCarthy-Fry, Minister for Schools and Learning gave the keynote address and spoke about the Government’s ambitions for improving autism education provision across England through better collaboration and information sharing.

Sarah McCarthy-Fry image  Sarah McCarthy-Fry said;

“The Autism Education Trust is developing into a valued critical friend; crucial in the work that they do, and working at the heart of the sector to draw together the views and concerns of our partners, and those working with children and young people on the autism spectrum.

The work of the Trust is absolutely vital to achieving our aspirations for a world class education, with high quality children’s services, making this country the best place to grow up for every child, including those on the autism spectrum, not just the fortunate few.  Those ambitions are something I feel extremely passionate about, and are the driving force behind everything we do in the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

A measure of a good society is how well it cares for those who need the most help. My aspiration is for this country to be the best place in the world for children and young people to grow up. Our efforts have to double for those children who, for whatever reason, need extra support to achieve all they are capable of.”

The one day conference brought together a mix of people working in the autism education sector, the schools workforce, local authority representatives, health professionals, adults and young people with autism and their parents and carers.  The event was a chance for people to share experiences and good practice and learn more about the work of the AET.  

Bob Lowndes, Chair of the AET Steering Group, said;

“We hope events like today will offer a platform for the identification and dissemination of good teaching practice for children on the autism spectrum and also inform the commissioning of children’s services in local areas.”

Further speakers at the event included Dr Glenys Jones from the Autism Centre for Education and Research at the University of Birmingham.  Dr Jones discussed the recent research undertaken by her team on behalf of the AET which reviews current practice, issues and challenges facing professionals, parents and children and young people on the autism spectrum across England.  

A highlight of the day was Dean Beadle, a young person on the autism spectrum, who spoke eloquently about his experiences of education, both positive and negative within the mainstream school system. He said;

“If we can encourage children to view their differences in positive ways, and if the right educational support can be given to a child on the autism spectrum, I believe any child can find success in education.”

Following the success of this National Conference, the AET is running a series of ‘Roadshow’ events across England during March, April and May. The six events will mirror the National Conference and in addition will address some of the more local issues in each area.    For full details of these roadshow events and to book tickets visit please add correct link here to download a booking form or contact T: 0115 9113367 F: 0115 9113362 E: conference@nas.org.uk. Places for these events are free but limited and must be booked in advance.