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Ambitious College: for Young People with Autism


Ambitious College is the only college in London, specifically for young people with autism. Currently, there isn’t enough educational opportunities for young people with autism and complex needs once they’ve left school. The significant lack of provision means the young people can’t effectively progress and realise their unique potential.

An Ambitious Yet Necessary Idea

Ambitious College was launched in September 2016 by the charity Ambitious About Autism. So far, there are two campuses: Pears Campuses at College of Haringey, Enfield and North-East London and West Thames College, London. There is a concerted effort being made to raise £1m to complete The West Thames College. Presently, it is still in temporary accommodation. Overall, establishing the college has cost £4.4m (including the £1m that still needs to be obtained).

Continuous, Specialist Education

The philosophy behind the college’s name is demonstrated in their practice. The aim is to make sure education is continuous for young people with autism, rather than it end once they have completed secondary school. By continuing their education, these young people can develop skills that will benefit their employability. Simultaneously, they establish independent living whilst developing their unique abilities. Without Ambitious College, the alternative for young people with autism is living in care. This often puts strain on the young person and their family.

Leading the Way

College Principal Vivienne Berkeley is working to break down barriers. By developing pathways for her students. Her methods are exceptional and effective. For example, when seeking employment opportunities for the young people, a full-time employment specialist finds an opportunity that is suitable and then completes the job themselves. By doing this, information about the employment opportunity can be repeated to the student in steps. Essentially, everything is well tailored to the young people and their additional needs.

Preparing for the Future

One of the most important things about Ambitious College is that it is effectively preparing students for adult life. Both the facilities and specialist team of staff allow students to operate on their own terms whilst learning. Students provide their own food that they either buy from local shops or cook themselves at the college. Seemingly small actions have a massive impact because the students are using transferable skills that are essential to confident independent living.

Additionally, there is also the incentive to get the young people to be more familiar and comfortable with public transport. Due to engagement with Transport for London, buses are provided on campus so that students gain understanding whilst in a safe environment.

Ambitious College is Effective

Overall, Ambitious College is extremely successful. Parents and staff are reporting that students are increasing in confidence and are becoming more independent. For instance, one student can navigate the tube system with ease, compared to when they started at the college and wouldn’t get on public transport.

Success has meant that demand for the college is growing. It is now paramount that the funding is achieved, because Berkeley is committed to her students and tries to include whoever she can. What is extremely positive is the assurance by Berkeley herself that “everyone is capable” and will continue to work hard so that it is universally understood.

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