£13m trial to test ‘innovative’ support for neurodiverse pupils

1 in 10 primaries will get five days’ worth of additional specialist help from trained staff

1 in 10 primaries will get five days’ worth of additional specialist help from trained staff

One in 10 mainstream primaries will take part in a new £13 million pilot to upskill school staff to offer “excellent provision” for neurodiverse children. 

A “partnerships for inclusion of neurodiversity in schools” pilot was successful in the third round of the government’s shared outcomes fund. The fund aims to tackle “some of the most difficult social, environmental and economic challenges” facing the country.

By bringing together health and education staff, the new school scheme will “create environments that better meet neurodiverse children’s needs, ensuring they are able to thrive as part of their wider cohort”. Neurodivergence encompasses variations in neurological function, including Autism and ADHD.

The scheme fits the government’s push for more early intervention in the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) system.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt

The project will each 1,680 primaries in England. Each of the 42 integrated care boards, which decide local health plans, will work with about 40 primary schools, meaning 450,000 children could be reached. 

A school will receive five days’ worth of additional specialist support from occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, mental health practitioners, educational psychologists, specialist nurses or specialist teachers. 

This would help upskill staff and boost teacher confidence to “offer excellent provision” for neurodiverse children in mainstream schools.

DfE said the project will work with schools to “move away from an emphasis on individual interventions and instead work towards approaches to teaching and learning that work for the whole cohort”. 

The school will have access to a dedicated funding pot, helping them work with local parent-carer forums or parent carer groups to support “stronger relationships and strengthen co-production across the school”. 

Cash allocations have not been confirmed, but the fund equates to just under £8,000 per school.

The pilot will start in September. While it is a one-off project, the scheme will be evaluated and any learnings used to inform future policy on the issue, DfE said.  

‘We need a much bigger commitment’

Stephen Kingdom, campaign manager for the Disabled Children’s Partnership, welcomed the programmes and said schools can be a “hostile environment” for autistic and neurodiverse children and welcomed the programme.

But he added they “are concerned whether there is the workforce capacity to make a success of the programme”.

For instance, there are already shortages of educational psychologists.

Margaret Mulholland, Association of School and College Leaders SEND and inclusion specialist, also called for a “much bigger commitment from the government in improved funding for SEND provision and ensuring that all schools are able to draw on the range of specialist support that is required.”

It is not the first education programme to win money from the fund. In 2021, £15.6 million was awarded to the “Alternative Provision Specialist Taskforces” scheme.

It aimed to provide intensive multi-agency support to vulnerable young people in AP who were “most at risk of disengaging with education, being criminally exploited by gangs and becoming involved in county lines and knife crime”.

The shared outcomes fund aims to test “innovative ways of working across the public sector” by “incentivising departments to work collaboratively across challenging policy areas, testing innovative approaches to strengthen joint working, improve outcomes and deliver better value for citizens”.

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  1. We believe the actual linguists, professors and communities use Neurodiverse to mean all humanity. No one child or individual can be neurodiverse. We think there is a misunderstanding (knowledge) rather than misappropriation of our identities. Neurodiversity (only ) is the different ways a person’s brain processes information – feel, think and learn.
    It varies immensely in humans.
    Neurodiversity is a biological fact
    The Neurodiversity movement is accepting all the brains are equal and should be accepted for their differences in the world and it is normal for brains to be different like in biodiversity. However, it is not NEURODIVERGENCE . Neurodivergence and a brain AND body which by this identification is different to the neuromajority and includes groups like Autistics, ADHD Dyspraxics, Tourettes, Dyslexics Dyscalculics …..and more. An individual or child will be neurodivergent . This is key. Neurodivergence connective tissues are different and affect learning -evidence based science. This does not include all humanity.