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The Communication/Autism Team (CAT) is part of Access to Education, Birmingham City Council and is a Local Authority (LA) specialist autism service, providing support for pupils with a diagnosis of autism, their parents and caregivers, and staff working in educational settings. CAT has been an AET hub delivering the Autism Education Trust Schools’ programme since 2011 and the Early Years and Post 16 programme since 2013.
The AET programme provides the foundation and framework of the CAT model
of service delivery for all schools (see Simpson et al, 2017 for further detailed explanation). This has proved highly effective in raising the capacity of all schools, but particularly mainstream schools, to meet the needs of children and young people with autism.
Further data indicates that increasingly autistic children and young peopl in Birmingham are remaining in mainstream settings. Proportionally the percentage of autistic children and young people in specialist schools in 2016 was 39%. In 2019 it was 35%. This is a decrease of 4% and equates to a difference of 178 children and young people.
This is important because the average cost of specialist provision in the local authority area is £67K/ year/child and so the 4% decrease equates to a saving of £12 million.
The cost to CAT of the AET licence to run the AET programme supporting mainstream settings to make reasonable adjustments is just £15K per year.
The model promotes whole-school development, which is consistently applied through both the AET training and the implementation of the AET standards and competency frameworks. CAT uses these frameworks to benchmark how ‘autism friendly’ schools are and it enables them to assist schools to reflect and identify ways to improve their good autism practice by making reasonable adjustments. All schools receive the AET ‘making sense of autism’ training for all staff. Additional hours of support and AET training can be purchased.
For the past year CAT staff have tracked the number of pupils that have avoided exclusions per month as a result of the work undertaken with schools. The data indicated that their work prevented an average of 38 exclusions a month (range of 25 – 44) equating to an average of 456 a year.