The Autism Research Centre, University of Cambridge, directed by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, is setting up a novel research project to test if autistic children in mainstream and special schools are more vulnerable to ending up in what the UK Government calls NEET (Not in Education, Employment, and Training).
This research is supported by Gesher School, which provides a specialist learning environment for autistic children and those with related special needs, and is funded by law firm Mishcon de Reya and the Autism Research Trust.
The research team will use a valuable resource called the National Pupil Database that records if a child has one of a set of recognised Special Educational Needs (SEN), including autism, and records a range of other data on thousands of children across the UK, including whether they end up in NEET.
They will compare different categories of SEN, such as children with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Conduct Disorder, and Dyslexia, to see whether SEN in general is a risk factor for ending up in NEET, and whether autism entails an elevated risk for ending up in NEET. The team will also use online surveys and focus groups to capture parents’ experiences, and will produce policy guidelines based on their findings.
Social communication difficulties make children on the autistic spectrum particularly vulnerable to negative life experiences, both at home and at school. Many report being bullied, excluded, exploited, and feeling marginalized.
An increased vulnerability to negative life experiences, in combination with inadequate support, may partially explain why the Cambridge team’s earlier study found that two thirds of autistic adults experience anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts and feelings. Alarmingly one third have planned or attempted suicide – a rate significantly higher than is seen in other groups in the population. The team now wish to see if leaving school and ending up in NEET is another risk factor for this worrying outcome.
Mariann Kovacs, who is analysing the data as part of a PhD in Cambridge, said “We hope that this project will provide families, carers and schools with more insight into how life experiences impact an autistic child’s emotional state and learning, and what long-term interventions are needed to support these vulnerable children, so that they can fulfil their potential”.
Dr Sarah Griffiths, who is co-supervising the PhD, said “It is vital that research of this kind is funded and undertaken so we know where the problems are and can use evidence to advise policy-makers and educators how to best help autistic children and adolescents”.
Dr Carrie Allison, Director of Strategy at the Autism Research Centre in Cambridge, and an advisor to the project, said “We are very grateful to this team of funders for enabling real-world autism research to take place, and which will have rapid impact on autistic children’s lives”.
Professor Simon Baron-Cohen added “Thankfully we are now shining a light on mental health, its causes, risk factors, and protective factors. Understanding a child’s journey into NEET and if autistic children are more at risk of this outcome is of huge importance if we are to improve mental health in young people. I am pleased that mental health is becoming less stigmatised and is getting more attention, and these funders are contributing to improving our understanding of good and poor mental health in autistic people.”
Sarah Sultman and Ali Durban, co-founders of Gesher School, commented “Collaborations between funders like these help bring about social change on many levels. Early intervention is critical for autistic children and this research will give an insight into how schools can best help”.
From Gesher School’s governors, staff and pupils, we would like to say a huge thank you to the DM Thomas Foundation for Young People, for making such a generous donation towards Dramatherapy to the school for next year. Your donation is gratefully received and will benefit our Dramatherapy programme massively, thank you!
P’EIR Teamed up last week with the Gesher School to deliver the first ever professional development seminar for rabbis and rebbetsens dedicated to ‘Neurodiversity, Inclusion and Community’. The programme was opened by Rabbi Chaim Kanterovitz (senior rabbi of Borehamwood and Elstree Synagogue) who is the religious principal of Gesher School. He introduced Sarah Sultman, co-founder of the school who scoped general concerns over provision for neurodiverse individuals and their families in synagogue communities.
It is with great pride that we publish our OFSTED report. Please click here to read.
You will see that we were graded as an OUTSTANDING school in all areas! We are all feeling very happy and beyond proud of the children and the staff.
There are 236 Independent schools in London and 1,326 in the UK. There are 9 Outstanding in London and 43 Outstanding in the UK, 2 in London and 20 in the UK are SEN.
It has been an exciting journey opening Gesher and welcoming our first beautiful cohort of children. They have progressed and flourished in ways we couldn’t have imagined. It is absolute proof that happy children learn and that having emotional well-being as a priority in a school impacts its success.
I want to thank the Gesher team for working tirelessly to get the school running the way that it is does and for always supporting one another. There is a warmth and a true dedication to the children’s overall well-being across the entire team and that is priceless.
I would also like to give a massive and heartfelt thank you to our parents. You have been supportive of our dream and you believed in us in a time when all we could give you was our vision. Your unwavering belief in us and the extremely kind comments that you gave us during the OFSTED inspection truly supported the whole of the school and we are forever grateful.
We feel fortunate to have a school built on passion, dedication and a child centered ethos.
So here’s to the Gesher Community!!
Well Done!! It is official, we are OUTSTANDING!
After an extra-long weekend, D’vash class were back and hard at work! The children continued to work on their learning objectives from the previous week. These included following instructions, matching words in storybooks and following or retelling a simple story in Literacy linking to our story the ‘Rainbow fish’. We looked at parts of the whale in art and explored a frozen rice ‘under the sea’ tray in messy play.
We are looking forward to our first swimming lesson next week Monday too! This means that PE and Jewish studies lessons will be taking place on a Wednesday afternoon. The focus in PE this term is dance. Children will be encouraged to experiment with movement and making a range of shapes with our bodies. They will work towards linking 2 or 3 movements together in a sequence.
Thanks to our Onesie Gingerbread bake sale to mark Schools Autism Awareness Week, Gesher children have managed to raise an amazing £282.55 for the National Autistic Society!
A big thank you to all our families for purchasing the delicious gingerbread men and raising money for such a great cause.
Another exciting milestone for Gesher and a huge thank you to Gesher Champions Variety, the Children’s Charity who presented the school with its own mini-bus today. The mini-bus will be used every day, and have a huge impact – allowing the children participate in their local community, enjoy swimming and other visits, such as trips to the library and local parks.
As part of Autism Awareness Week we are selling Gingerbread men to raise money for The National Autistic Society!
We will be sending home an order form for parents, carers and families to order Gingerbread men and donate to the cause!
Please support children with asking extended family members and friends if they would like to order and support the cause.
Gingerbread men will be sent home on Tuesday 27th March.
Please note we are limited to how many gingerbread the children can make and decorate. We will do our best to satisfy all orders however extremely high orders may be ’rounded down!’
We are excited to be celebrating Autism Awareness Week from the 26th-28th March!
Children and staff will be involved in activities for all 3 days to spread awareness and raise money for the National Autistic Society
Timetable of the week will be as follows:
· Assembly with Miss Colizza – The importance of being different
· Onesie Decorating
· Gingerbread baking (For sale to families and friends)
· Video Making – How we are all different
· Raising Awareness – handing out flyers to the local community
· Decorating and packing onesie gingerbread men
· Autism awareness lessons in classrooms
Wednesday (Onesie Wednesday!)
· Onesie Parade – kids and staff
· Watch our completed video
· Lunch together in the hall