The difference we make
We look for positive impact in everything we support
SCF grants and awards provide opportunities for autistic young people to improve their learning and/or mental health over time. Our funding helps schools and colleges to be creative and put in place support that otherwise would not have been possible.
It’s good to hear about what schools have done but being sure our funding makes a difference to autistic young people is paramount.
SCF has a strong commitment to measuring impact. We look for ways the impact can be brought alive through numbers, but also through stories which help us to get a feel for the difference a project has made for autistic young people.
We have developed SCF impact measures to help us show the difference we make more clearly. Find out about SCF impact measures here.
2022-23 in numbers
autistic students helped to succeed through SCF grants
schools & colleges with SCF-funded activities and initiatives
Amount SCF gave to help autistic students return to school and access education
of schools reported an impact after as little as 5 months
What this looks like for students
Read case studies about the impact on learning, mental health and wealth being
"The progress has been astounding for our young people - they are out of their bedrooms, leaving the house, putting on their uniform, coming to the carpark and gradually coming back into school, back into lessons"SENDCo, secondary academy
Students developed new relationships in SCF-funded safe spaces
Safe spaces at break and lunch: reduced anxiety, better relationships
Organising students into COVID-19 ‘bubbles’ meant that autistic students had to go outside at break times meaning they couldn’t access their usual safe space. SCF funding created a separate indoor safe space for each year group. The additional funding meant that students were supported to socialise in the safe space resulting in new relationships with peers and staff. The autistic students feel more connected both with peers and staff, and have been able to communicate more openly. There’s been a knock-on effect on academic achievements and their interactions in lesson time. There has also been positive feedback from parents who report students are calmer when coming home and seem happier about being back at school.
“I feel safer in school knowing I can come to this room. I don't even need to use it some days but I feel better knowing I can
A virtual tour helped Y6 autistic pupils transition to secondary school
Creating a virtual tour of the school helped autistic pupils planning to transition to secondary school. It has enabled them to process abstract 2D plans so they had a clearer picture of the school layout. Each area of the school is shown clearly and pupils can watch the segments as many times as they need. Previously, the school held open evenings, and then usually had requests for an additional tour. This year, no such requests have been made.
Improved emotional regulation
Scheduled breaks in sensory pods drastically reduced emotional outbursts
Expanding and structuring the use of sensory room provision helped make more of an impact. The existing space was modified into an intervention space for managing students’ anxiety, and two sensory calming pods - fully stocked with a range of materials that students use to self-regulate. Each pod has mood lighting, rocking chairs, cushions, special lighting, weighted blankets, stress cushions and lots of individual materials for specific students. The sensory pods are timetabled for autistic students throughout the day to allow them a safe space to go and regulate - in turn helping them to return to lessons. Within each hour of the day 20 minutes are kept free in one pod in case there is an unexpected need for a quiet space following dysregulation. The pods have formed an essential part of the school routine for many students, allowing regular rest breaks to prevent sensory overload.
- A drastic reduction in the number of behaviour incidents for students using the pods, with the internal seclusion rate decreasing by over 65%.
- Emotional outbursts have become almost non-existent, which has a dramatic impact on the learning environment and the well-being of all students who feel more safe.
- Because students using the pods when overwhelmed are able to regulate more effectively, this has resulted in less learning time being lost. Previously a member of staff could be up to 2 hours with a student, now they can be regulated and back to learning within 30 minutes.
- The wider impact of this is increased capacity for providing support for more students, and so it is not just the autistic students who have benefitted.
"I come to school more now as I can use our safe space when I have worries."
Additional staff time to meet and greet students made school manageable
Extra staff time to meet and greet, reducing anxiety
Three students had extremely high levels of anxiety and were struggling with getting into school in the morning. SCF funded a learning support assistant to meet and greet students, go through their day and ensure they had everything needed for the day. They also liaised with parents, reminded students of support available: someone to talk to and a safe place to come throughout the day when needed. All three are now attending school on time and regularly. They are smiling, more relaxed and better able to access their lessons.
A sensory room helped Harry to manage his anxiety and return to lessons
Harry, aged 13 has autism and is in Year 8 of his mainstream school.
Harry struggles with sensory overload and finds unpredictability challenging - so the busy, noisy environment of school was a difficult place for him. He would withdraw, spending a lot of time by himself, often walking out of lessons.
With SCF funding, Harry’s school consulted with students, and created a sensory room: a space that can be used flexibly by autistic students in and out of lessons, to help them regulate emotions and calm any anxieties. Time in the sensory room is scheduled. Harry uses the sensory room for some core lessons, at transition times, and for timetabled regulation sessions when Harry can spend time with his ear defenders on, developing strategies to manage.
After just two weeks both staff and parents saw a massive change. Having ‘regulation’ timetabled has made school more predictable. Harry knows he has a space where he can be quiet, control his anxiety, readjust and return to his lessons.
Harry no longer wakes up early worried about going to school. The pastoral team in school have noticed how much calmer he is. He is staying in more lessons.
"The sensory room makes me feel calm. It’s very quiet to read and I can do my work so now I go to some lessons."
Josh was on the route to exclusion. SCF gave him the experience of success
Josh, aged 15 with autism, was on the route to permanent exclusion in his mainstream school. His difficulty adapting to the expectations of different teachers, and challenges with peer and staff relationships meant he was frequently disengaged, often refusing to work and at times was verbally aggressive.
SCF funding gave Josh the experience of success.
- It funded the development of a separate part of the school to become a learning centre for ASC students. Here, students can come when they need to calm down or re-group when things fall apart in school. The centre also hosts the gardening club, a haven for Josh where he works with other students to plan and create environmental initiatives.
- It also funded Josh to go to a local farm initiative which aimed to develop life skills in young people. Josh came away with an invitation to apply for an apprenticeship once he leaves school.
Both places responded to Josh’s practical strengths, instead of expecting him to fit into other people’s expectations.
For Josh, SCF funding was perfect and he said so! It gave him a chance to be successful, and a glimpse of a successful future beyond school.
Extra TA time meant students left school with much higher GCSE grades
Two students who were not able to access school due to COVID-realated anxiety and feelings of isolation, exacerbated by COVID. Additional teaching assistant time support has meant that the students have been able to attend part-time each day, and to gradually build up time in school.
One of these pupils was Year 11. Through SCF funding, he had a room away from others, a flexible timetable and teaching assistants who were able to get his work ready and support him. In five of his GCSEs, grades improved. Another year 10 student was a school-refuser because of her anxiety. With SCF-funded additional support she has been into school nearly every day for at least one hour and has started to go out at break with peers - a huge step forward from not being able to cross the threshold.
"He would not have attained the GCSE grades that he did without this funding"SENDCo, Secondary Academy
What this looks like for schools and colleges
Read about the wider impact of SCF funding, helping to change the way things happen
Trialling new approaches
Introducing an AV1 robot meant remote learners didn’t miss out
Supporting remote learning - via a robot!
Three autistic students with high levels of anxiety were helped to join in lessons by using a distance learning avatar which allowed a virtual presence in class for students based a distance away - first at home and then in a learning centre. SCF funded the college to hire an AV1 robot for 9 months, giving students the ability to see, hear and talk to their classmates as if they were there, all through a secure app in their phone or tablet. This has enabled the students to access their subjects and still feel part of the community, and the staff to continue to teach whilst supporting students who were not present in their lessons.
Shifting the school culture
An accessible ‘treasure chest’ of resources led to acceptance of sensory needs
Promoting inclusion through accessible resources
Students’ sensory needs meant they frequently disengaged with classroom learning. SCF funded the purchase of an easily accessible resource box (a treasure chest) full of learning tools such as wobble cushions, chair bands, timers and writing slopes. Staff could see how much autistic students benefited from accessing these resources to aid learning - it has led to staff having much more awareness of students’ sensory needs. As a result, teachers have become more flexible and responsive in the way they teach, leading to increased well-being of autistic students.
The school also bought new equipment to meet the needs of the most sensory-seeking autistic students. Before school, students select equipment to help with sensory integration. It is now common in the school to see students whizzing around on scooter boards, doing exercises involving peanut balls or stretching inside tubes. The focus has been on encouraging students to take responsibility for choosing the right exercise for them and so preparing themselves for the day ahead.
The school sees SCF funding as having had a vast impact on the whole school community with increased awareness of sensory needs from both staff and students.
These projects have literally changed these pupils’ livesSpecialist teacher, Community College
A college plans to recruit to sustain the impact of SCF-funded mentoring
A commitment to sustain SCF-funded mentoring
Autistic learners were struggling to re-engage with college post-lockdown. SCF funded mentors who ran social communication and therapy groups. This helped autistic students to attend college when they would otherwise have felt overloaded. Mentors encourage students to access a safe space at social times and as result there is an increasingly vibrant community of engaged ASC students. The college is convinced that the absence rate would be much higher without access to these enhanced facilities. It is now hoping to recruit in order to maintain the level of service this funding has provided.
Promotion and increased responsibility for TAs improved their expertise
Building skilled staff
SCF funding has given two teaching assistants a temporary promotion. Through this, they improved their skills, built relationships and showed they were ready for more responsibility when helping autistic students. This has led to them being offered this promotion for a further 12 months. The school are confident that this will help inclusion across the school.
Read more about SCF impact