Construction has started on the National Autistic Society’s secondary and sixth-form free school, Vanguard School. The school is designed specifically for children and young people from Lambeth and surrounding boroughs who are on the autism spectrum and looking to go onto further education and employment. It is scheduled to open in the second half of the 2019/20 academic year.
Designed by Pozzoni Architecture for the National Autistic Society, the specialist autism school will eventually cater for up to 78 students aged between 11 and 19. The school will grow gradually, with a phased intake of students, starting with years 7 and 8.
As well as high-quality learning facilities, the two-storey, 2,500m2 building will also contain a multi-use hall which will be shared with the local community out-of-hours, along with a kitchen, storage and community break-out spaces.
The new-build school will occupy an urban plot in Lambeth, south-east London, close to period Victorian properties, modern residential developments and a variety of local amenities.
Its development reflects the local authority’s recognition of the need for more specialist education provision in the borough. The National Autistic Society’s Vanguard School will help autistic children get the education they need closer to home, reducing the numbers having to travel to schools outside the borough and giving parents more choice.
The NAS Academies Trust was established in 2012 as a subsidiary of the National Autistic Society. Its purpose is to establish and run the charity’s autism-specific free schools and academies. The National Autistic Society’s Vanguard School will be the third free school to be opened by NAS Academies Trust, and the charity’s ninth school overall. It is the second school that the charity and Pozzoni have collaborated on.
Every autistic child is different and many can become overwhelmed in school environments by the bright lights, loud noises or unpredictable behaviour of other children. Without the right support and understanding, it can be almost impossible to learn and can even lead to children missing out on an education altogether.
Fortunately, finding the right support for each child can make all the difference. Some children on the autism spectrum are able to excel in mainstream schools with limited help, while others require more specialist support, like that offered by the National Autistic Society’s Vanguard School.
Catherine Mulley, director and head of the education team at Pozzoni, said: “The National Autistic Society’s Vanguard School has been designed using best practice as set out in our ‘Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: School Design Guidance’ document. We produced these guidelines working closely alongside the National Autistic Society in order to help provide the very best education environments for children and young adults who are on the autism spectrum.
“When delivering a project like this, every detail must be carefully considered, from the use of lighting, to heating and even floor finishes, to ensure that both students and staff feel safe, comfortable, and are encouraged to excel. We’re delighted to be working with the National Autistic Society again on a much-needed specialist education facility in the heart of London.”
Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society, said: "We're delighted that construction has started on our Vanguard School. This is a big moment, not just for the National Autistic Society, but also for the local parents and council who've been working with us to make this school a reality.
"Around 1 in 100 children are on the autism spectrum and each individual is different. Many autistic children and young people excel in mainstream school but others need more extensive support in specialist settings. There is a well-established need for autism expertise in Lambeth, which our Vanguard School will fill.
"The National Autistic Society has over 50 years’ experience teaching children and young people on the autism spectrum and currently runs eight schools. In this time, we've seen again and again how much children on the autism spectrum can achieve when they're given understanding and the right support. We have high ambitions for the school and are looking forward to welcoming our first students in in the 2019/20 academic year.”
Cllr Jennifer Brathwaite, Lambeth council’s Deputy Leader (Children & Young People), said: “I’m delighted that work has started on this important project. There is a real need in our communities for better and more local education for children on the autism spectrum.
“Too many of our children on the autism spectrum have to travel outside the borough to get the education they need. The Vanguard School, which has been spearheaded by local parents, is a real solution to this issue and has enthusiastic support from the local community.”
Lambeth London Borough Council approved planning on the new school in November 2018 and it is scheduled to open in the second half of the 2019/20 academic year.
With over thirty years’ experience, Pozzoni has built up an impressive portfolio of public and private sector developments including commercial, education, healthcare, leisure, mixed-use, residential and senior living projects from its offices in Manchester and London.
To find out more about the National Autistic Society’s Vanguard School and to sign up for updates on the school’s development, visit: www.autism.org.uk/vanguard