Future of our school in Essex: an update from Caroline Stevens, our Chief Executive
Published on 28 April 2020
I want to explain a difficult decision we have made about the future of our Anderson School in Chigwell, Essex.
We opened the school in September 2017, with the ambition of helping generations of local autistic children and young people to prepare for adult life, further education and work.
But the school has faced very challenging circumstances ever since it opened, including problems with recruitment and retention of staff and other issues. This has meant that the school was not able to consistently support all the students to the high education and welfare standards that we expect – and which students and families have a right to expect from us. This has been reflected in our own reviews and Ofsted inspections.
Despite putting in a lot of energy and expertise to try to improve the school, we have sadly not been able to turn the situation around. We know it could take years to bring the school up to the level we expect, and that would simply not be fair on our students, their families or carers. So, we have taken the very difficult decision to close the school at the end of the summer term, in July. This is never a decision that I would want to make, but I believe it is the right decision for our students’ long-term education and wellbeing.
I know as the parent of an autistic child myself how important the right educational support is, and I only want us to provide good quality schools and children’s services.
I am acutely aware that that the closure will be difficult for students, families, carers staff and local councils. The school and the rest of our charity are ready to support everyone involved as much as we can through the closure process.
Our charity has been successfully supporting and teaching autistic children for over 50 years and we started this school with such ambition and hope. So, this is not a decision we have taken lightly. We are very sorry and disappointed to have to make it. But we hope that it is clear why we think this is a necessary decision.
As the new Chief Executive at the National Autistic Society, I want to reassure our supporters that I am dedicated to making our schools, social care and other services for autistic adults and children as good as they can possibly be and to pushing for wider changes for autistic people.