The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Supporting children and young people with autism

Education Scotland is working to provide practical support to schools through digital resources.

In issue 79 of Teaching Scotland, Nick Ward wrote of the challenges of supporting autistic children and young people in Scotland’s schools. He identified the importance of providing teachers with autism-specific training. Education Scotland has recognised this as a key issue and has developed digital resources for teachers, including e-learning modules, to support children and young people with autism.

The development of the modules follows a recent EIS report Additional Support for Learning in Scottish School Education: Exploring the gap between promise and practice, which identified the need for high quality, accessible autism professional learning to be made available, at no financial cost to teachers, for professional update purposes. During their careers, almost all teachers will teach children and young people who are on the autism spectrum. While a few are taught in specialist schools, most are educated within mainstream settings or specialist units, and it is in these contexts that teachers are most likely to be in need of specialist training. 

Teachers need to have a meaningful understanding of effective strategies and approaches to support autistic learners. They need opportunities to work collaboratively and share ideas with other professionals. All of this takes time, planning and access to providers for busy school staff.

Education Scotland has an important role to play in building teachers’ skills in additional support needs in general, and in autism in particular. Our role involves having working relationships with local authorities and universities and includes regular engagement with specialist teachers and managers of additional support.

To support this work, the Inclusion Team at Education Scotland has written a suite of e-learning modules on the subject of additional support needs which includes advice on supporting autism. A module has been developed in partnership with Edinburgh City Council and Queen Margaret University on developing an inclusive classroom. The modules are available via Education Scotland’s website and National Improvement Hub. It is designed to be of use to all teachers, including newly qualified staff and those with specialist roles.


EIS report

Inclusion in Practice: The CIRCLE Framework – Secondary Module

National Improvement Hub

Autism Toolbox

 The materials present essential classroom strategies to help support both individuals and groups of learners.
Graphics are provided in the materials to aid understanding, as well as short quizzes to check what has been learned. The modules range from basic introductions to more involved and complex topics and interventions.
There is additionally a recognised need for parents to have access to reliable advice and guidance and for teachers to have guidance without having to complete a module. In support of this, Education Scotland has redesigned the Autism Toolbox in partnership with the Scottish Government, Scottish Autism and the University of Strathclyde. This was launched at the end of November 2019 and is available online. 

Education Scotland’s Inclusion team is now working in even closer partnership with regional collaboratives, local authorities, schools and partners to provide practical support more directly within schools. The provision of these new digital resources will greatly enhance this work.

Our growing range of support will help build professional learning that will improve the experience of autistic children and young people in Scottish education.

About the author

Mary Berrill is the Head of Inclusion, Wellbeing and Equality at Education Scotland. Originally from Edinburgh she was a chemistry and physics teacher, becoming a support for learning teacher then moving into special schools. She spent 10 years in a local authority working as a Quality Improvement manger and then Inclusion manager. She has spent most of the last six years as an Inspector of Education, more recently joining Education Scotland’s Inclusion and Equality team.