Education and learning

Autism school in Lambeth given go-ahead

Dozens of Lambeth pupils with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) will be able to go to school in the borough, after a site was approved in Kennington

Lambeth Council has agreed to sell a site in Lollard Street to the Education Funding Agency, to  enable the NAS Vanguard School scheme to go ahead. Education Minister Lord Nash approved the site for use as a free school earlier this year.

The new school will be run by the NAS Academies Trust, which was set up by the National Autistic Society (NAS) to manage its network of free schools. Since then the Council has been working with the NAS Academies Trust and the Department for Education to identify a suitable site. The school will eventually cater for 78 secondary pupils aged 11-19, some of whom have accompanying learning difficulties,

The NAS hopes to start building work on the site once planning permission has been granted later in 2015, with the first pupils arriving in January 2017.

The development has been spearheaded by local parents, and is an innovative response to the shortage of Special Educational Needs (SEN) places in Lambeth, which has forced many children and young people to attend schools outside the borough.

The NAS Vanguard School will form part of the Council’s plans to increase the number of places for SEN pupils within the borough, although parents of children and young people with autism from neighbouring boroughs will also be welcome to apply. In response to an SEN Review in 2012, the Council has also been developing 105 additional SEN places in mainstream schools and academies, and 45 ASD places in primary schools.

The changes will slash the amount of money spent educating Lambeth children outside the borough – and the costs of transporting them. However, the Council has made a commitment that no pupil will be moved from their current placement unless they and/or their family want to switch.

The Lollard Street site is currently occupied by the Ethelred Youth Centre (EYC). The EYC and other community groups will be able to use the new school’s hall, free of charge, for up to 25 hours a week. The Council will also help to find a temporary base for the Centre while construction work is being carried out.

Cllr Imogen Walker, Deputy Leader of the Council (Policy), said: “Students having to travel, in many cases long distances, to schools outside the borough for their education is clearly not ideal for anyone. We have been working very hard, with the NAS, to come up with a better solution for everyone.

“We are delighted that a site has been found for the school, which will help tackle the lack of SEN provision in the area. Vanguard providing an education to local children and young people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder will benefit our communities, parents and, most importantly, young people”.”

Mark Lever, Chief Executive of the National Autistic Society, said: “The news that we have a site for the NAS Vanguard School is a victory for the local parents, the council and ourselves who have worked so hard to make this school a reality. But the biggest impact will be felt by local children and young people with autism.

“Autism is a spectrum condition that affects everyone differently, so it’s essential that parents are able to choose from a range of education provision and access the right education for their child as close to home as possible. This clearly wasn’t happening in Lambeth, which is why we’ve been working on this project with local parents and the council since 2012.

“The NAS has over 50 years’ experience teaching children with autism and this new school will give us the opportunity to extend our expertise to Lambeth and help local children and young people with the condition to reach their full potential. The school will benefit the local community by providing a hub of autism expertise which can be used by local families, education professionals and schools and sharing facilities.

“Autism can have a profound effect on individuals but our experience shows that the right education can make all the difference.”



There are 1519 children and young people in Lambeth with an SEN. 1,169 are educated in the borough. 350 are educated externally.

The average local journey time for children educated in the borough is 40 minutes. The average journey time to an external school is 75 minutes. 2% of children and young people who are educated out of borough stay away from home during the school week.

Vanguard School

  • Referrals will not start until 9 months before the school’s opening.
  • Parents interested in attending The Vanguard School can indicate their preference for the school to the local authority who maintains their child’s statement.
  • The Vanguard School will be autism-specific free school which by 2020 will offer 78 places for children and young people with autism, including some with accompanying learning difficulties, living in Lambeth and neighbouring boroughs.
  • It will be run by the NAS Academies Trust.
  • Council officers have been investigating potential sites for the school for the last 12 months.
  • It will be built on the site of the Ethelred Youth Centre, Lollard Street, Kennington.
  • The proposal is for the building to have multiple use within the community, with one entrance for a school and one for a multi-purpose hall.

What is a free school?

  • Free schools are state-funded schools set up in response to the needs of local people in order to improve education for children in their community.

The National Autistic Society

  • The National Autistic Society (NAS) established the NAS Academies Trust to own and manage its network of free schools and academies: http://www.autism.org.uk/our-services/our-schools/nas-academies-trust.aspx
  • The National Autistic Society is the UK’s leading charity for people with autism and their families. Founded in 1962, it continues to spearhead national and international initiatives and provide a strong voice for all people with autism. The NAS provides a wide range of services to help people with autism and Asperger syndrome live their lives with as much independence as possible.
  • The NAS relies on the support of its members and donors to continue its vital work for people with autism. To become a member, make a donation or to find out more about the work of the NAS, visit the NAS website http://www.autism.org.uk
  • For more information about autism and for help in your area, call the NAS Autism Helpline on: 0808 800 4104 10am-4pm, Monday to Friday, (free from landlines and most mobiles).
  • Follow the NAS on Twitter (@Autism) or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/NationalAutisticSociety).

What is autism?

  • Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them. It is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people with autism share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways. Some people with autism are able to live relatively independent lives but others may have accompanying learning disabilities and need a lifetime of specialist support. People with autism may also experience over- or under-sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours.
  • Asperger syndrome is a form of autism. People with Asperger syndrome are often of average or above average intelligence. They have fewer problems with speech but may still have difficulties with understanding and processing language.


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