This project started in the North East region and was developed in response to an increasing number of children and young people with autism who were facing mental health crisis and hospital admissions.

Parent carers told the project that “there were too many missed opportunities” to help their child and that small issues were left to become major problems, which damaged their children’s wellbeing.

The project worked with mainstream schools to improve knowledge and understanding of autism of how to support autistic children/young people and their families and promoted a person-centred approach in mainstream schools so that teaching staff understood the challenges faced by individual students and were able to put reasonable adjustments in place where needed.

It involved whole school change and those schools which participated committed to reviewing their behaviour policies and considering how the school environment worked for autistic children and young people. 

It enabled autistic young people and their families to understand their own strengths and challenges – focussed on increasing confidence and self-awareness through the resources and information shared.   The project improved working relationships between families and the schools, with local Parent Carer Forums bringing together parents and carers so that they could benefit from peer support, providing information about local services and enabling parents and carers to work with senior school leaders to co-produce solutions to any identified issues.  

The project was really well received by families and schools and positive results were seen in terms of families feeling better supported and a reduction in exclusions and improved attendance and attainment.  The success of the project in the North East has led to a national roll out of the approach, and Oldham are one of four areas across Greater Manchester to be involved in this trial, which includes Rochdale, Manchester and Wigan.

We are excited to be part of this project and are working in partnership with Oldham Council’s QEST Senior Advisory Teacher and Oldham Educational Child and Psychology Service, Greater Manchester Steering Group (which includes membership from across the 4 participating areas, NHS, National Project leads and Parent Carer Forums)  and other practitioners across the borough.

Training for school staff will be provided using Autism Education Trust materials and delivered by Oldham Council Senior Advisory Teacher and ASD Co-ordinator and Oldham Educational and Child Psychology Service.

We are keen to bring together Parent/carers from each of the schools working on the trial and these sessions will be delivered by Oldham Parent Carer Forum and will cover a number of different topics.  The content of these sessions will be based on parent/carer feedback.

This will ensure that good practice is developed at the pilot schools and learning can be shared across Oldham.  Although the project primarily focusses on autism, we are keen to ensure that it benefits children and young people with other types of needs as well and we would welcome parents and carers of children and young people with any type of special educational need and/or disability to join us.

Evaluations are carried out throughout different stages of the project.