It’s been a month since this year’s National Co-production Week so we thought we’d take this opportunity to finally publish the well-articulated blog that Julie Hicklin, Manchester’s SEND Lead, wrote about the Autism in Schools project. (Apologies for the delay!)

Here it goes:

Autism in Schools is a national programme that has been running in Manchester and 3 other Greater Manchester local authorities for around 18 months. From September, all 10 GM boroughs will become part of the programme.

The aims of the programme are to improve understanding and acceptance of autism/neurodiversity in schools and across services by:

  • Providing training for school staff,
  • Setting up parent groups in mainstream schools facilitated by Manchester Parent Carer Forum (MPCF), and
  • Giving pupils opportunities to meet other neurodiverse young people through social activities that match their interests.

From the start Parent Carer Forums have been strategic partners and project leads. MPCF has set up and facilitated parent groups in 6 Manchester high schools, expanding to 9 in September. Each group has evolved in different ways, led by the group members’ priorities, but all of them are helping improve communication between families, schools and services. The groups allow parents to network and support each other, share information about services and be linked into various community local offer activities. The meetings also provide the opportunity for parents to discuss what is working/ not working for neurodiverse children at schools and work with staff on solutions.

Parents, young people and staff from across Greater Manchester have developed a set of training modules, which are being rolled out to both schools and parents. School staff are reporting a greater understanding of autism/neurodiversity. MPCF have also hosted training for parents on these modules as well as inviting speakers from services such as SENDIASS and the SIBS national charity.

We are really proud of what we have achieved so far by working together. Co-production in Greater Manchester has been showcased at the national Autism in Schools group to demonstrate the impact of parent/carer leadership.

Julie Hicklin