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Chair of the Board Ambitious about Autism and Ambitious about Autism Schools Trust AaA(ST)

Progress towards equality for autistic children and young people has been made and we’re proud of our role in this as a movement for change. But there is still more progress to be made. This is an opportunity to lead the board of a charity that is ensuring we live in a world where autistic children and young people can be themselves and realise their ambitions.

  • Location: London across several sites.
  • Salary: Voluntary with reasonable expenses paid.
  • Closing date: Friday 31st May

Who we are.

Ambitious about Autism is the national charity for autistic children and young people. We were established in 1997 by a group of families of autistic children who were concerned about the lack of appropriate provision for their children. Following a major capital fundraising campaign and a series of temporary locations and premises, Treehouse School and our charity moved into purpose-built accommodation in 2008, together creating the Pears National Centre for Autism Education. Since then, we have grown our education services opening Ambitious College, The Rise School and Spring School, and merging with St John’s College in September 2023, alongside extending our national influencing and enabling activities.

We run specialist education services and an award-winning employment programme, wherein children and young people are at the heart of our charity’s decision-making, policy work and campaigning. We also use our expertise to deliver training and consultancy to a wide range of organisations to improve awareness and understanding of autism. We want to help even more autistic children and young people to improve their quality of life and secure a fulfilling and rewarding future.

Even during the pandemic, we lived up to our name as we achieved so many goals and plans. We developed our Right from the Start toolkit, launched our Employ Autism campaign, and have grown and evolved.

We are experiencing an exciting period of growth. We were chosen to open a new school – Spring School which supports up to 90 pupils at capacity from ages 4-19 and we announced our merger with St John’s College. Although this is exciting, we have a battle on our hands as we call on the government to follow their solutions in the SEND Green Paper. We’re concerned that some of the proposals will make it even harder for autistic children to access education support and so we are asking for a public commitment from the government to fund support for children with SEND. There are more than twice as many children with SEND in schools and colleges now than there were in 2010, but the government has not set out what funding will be available to pay for the additional support they need.

We know there is an increasing need for mental health support across all schools. Everyone should be able to feel OK at school. But we know this isn’t the case for many autistic pupils. That’s why we created the Autistic and OK programme to empower autistic pupils to take control of their mental health and wellbeing, understand themselves and feel OK at school. Our guide is free for every single secondary school. But there is more for us to do, to continue to build and empower our communities to ensure autistic young people feel understood and accepted.

We recognise that there is still more to be done to grow and develop our important work, first outlined in our Time for Ambition 2021-2024 strategy and so we are extending this strategy for a further two years. Our aims continue to include ensuring autistic children and young people have an excellent and inclusive education, alongside striving for every autistic young person to have good careers education at school and in further and higher education, including experience of work. Autistic people need services that support good mental health by reducing isolation and so we want to ensure early intervention through signposting to specialist support. We aim to ensure peer networks are available alongside uplifting but realistic information tailored to autistic young people and their families. We also want to further develop our Ambitious Youth Network and continue to expand nationally to empower young people to connect with one another and to influence societal change.

Given we run schools, following a governance review in December 2019, we created our own Multi-Academy Trust – Ambitious about Autism Schools Trust (AaAST) which currently has two schools. We implemented several new changes to our governance including Joint Trustees and a joint committee structure wherein there are five trustees each of the Charity and Trust Boards and three Trustees who are Trustees of both Boards who serve as the joint Chair, Vice Chair and Treasurer of the Charity and Trust. All Trustees of the Charity and Trust are members of a Joint Group Board Committee to ensure oversight of the Charity and Trust. How this works in practice is everyone meets together with a short meeting afterwards to discuss Ambitious about Autism Schools Trust.

Our new Chair.

Our current Chair, Neil Goulden, is approaching the end of his term in December 2024, and we are in search of our next Chair to lead our Board. We need a Chair who has extensive experience in modern board leadership, ensuring robust governance, and promoting collective strategic decision-making. We are looking for someone who is commercially astute, as we strive to drive our organisation’s continued growth, ambition, and development. We value a Chair who embodies credibility and adeptness in navigating complexity. The ability to work with others and build trusting relationships with a variety of stakeholders are key.

Our new Chair must be committed to making a meaningful impact and leading an organisation that empowers young autistic people during a pivotal period of change in our communities. We need a Chair who is an inclusive leader, fostering engagement, strategic thinking, and openness who will lead the board as an

exemplar of inclusivity. They must be supportive and challenging, creating opportunities for growth and positive impact.

It is vital that our new Chair works with the board to ensure that all voices are heard and will have an affinity for our mission to stand with autistic children and young people, champion their rights, and create opportunities.

The new Chair will work with an established board and ambitious executive team that is ensuring our organisation is sustainable, evolving, innovative and impactful, and leads change whilst providing outstanding education to young autistic people.

The Board meets once a term and has an annual strategy away day. We expect the time commitment for the Chair to vary, and we would expect the equivalent on average of circa two days a month across various activities such as preparation for board meetings, reading board papers, regular conversation with the Chief Executive, ad hoc discussions with board members and the executive team, and attending events throughout the year.

Our board is diverse in many ways, including autistic people, who are part of our board, alongside a balance of gender, ethnicity, and age. We want to continue ensuring our Board represents our society and the people we work with every day.


For further information about the role, or to arrange a confidential discussion, please contact our advising consultants at Peridot Partners:

Jennifer Horan | jennifer@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07519 070497

Lucy Mavers | lucy@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07947 935068

Jennifer-Horan-Trustee-Recruitment-Agency

If you would like to know more about this role please contact Jennifer Horan

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About Ambitious about Autism and Ambitious about Autism Schools Trust AaA(ST)

At least 1 in 100 children and young people are autistic. Our vision is a future where every autistic child and young person can be themselves and realise their ambitions. This vision is not a reality for most autistic children and young people. Unfair treatment is routine, invisible and unchallenged. Autistic young people are pushed to the margins; families are under enormous pressure and losing hope. Now, more than ever, is the time for change.

We are passionate and driven by our mission to stand with autistic children and young people, champion their rights and create opportunities.

Ambitious about Autism has recently shared a new audio documentary, “Autistically Me”, recorded by young people from the Ambitious Youth Network. It aims to break down myths, and inspire other autistic young people to reflect on their autistic strengths. You can listen here.

Yellow box with the headline Our Purpose in it. Underneath the headline, it reads 5'We help autistic children and young people to be themselves.’ Orange box with the headline Our Vision in the box. Underneath the headline it reads, 'Our vision is for a future where every autistic child and young person can be themselves and realise their ambitions.’ Green box with the headline Our Mission in the box. Underneath the headline, it reads, ' We stand with autistic children and young people, champion their rights and create opportunities.’ Blue box with the headline Our Values in the box. Underneath the headline, it reads. 'Children and young people are at the heard of everything that we do.'

Our strategy, Time for Ambition, sets out our plans to have even greater reach and impact. As part of this, we aim to further develop our existing and new education services, increase our work in employment and enterprise, and develop new services and activities to support autistic children and young people in their families, and their communities and to ensure good health and wellbeing.

Our schools and colleges provide autism-specific education to children and young people aged 4 to 25 years across London and the South East. Our education services continue to develop and grow to respond to increasing and changing needs. We have recently opened a new special free school In Kingston, Spring School, and, through a recent merger, St John’s residential specialist college in Brighton has joined our charity.

A colourful circle representing the core strategy of Ambitious about Autism. At the centre there is "children and your people at the heart" with five values around: excellent education, health and wellbeing, active citizenship in the community, family and relationships and employment and enterprise. Beneath the circle, there are two more boxes. The first reads "Underpinned by participation, strong foundations, partnership" while the second box shows an icon of a person speaking to a group of people and says "Influencing policy and practice nationally". Each of these points are elaborated on below.

We are proud of our national work through which we support, skills up and empower thousands of young people, parents and carers, professionals and organisations nationally. As part of this, Employ Autism is developing a model of best practice to enable autistic young people to access career support to enable them to successfully progress from education to employment. Our Ambitious Youth Network supports over a thousand autistic young people to connect, gain confidence and influence the world around them. We are also growing our digital capacity to provide vital and trusted information and guidance to all those supporting autistic children and young people.

We continue to work to influence national and local policy and practice to create a better world where autistic children and young people can learn, thrive and achieve.

Autistic children and young people, and our underpinning values, are at the heart of everything we do.

Accessibility information

We understand that different members of the community have different access needs and have made some modifications to the way we do business to accommodate people from diverse communities and abilities. Our accessibility provisions include:

  • Step-free access to the building, accessible workstations (e.g. desk, office), and step-free access to all key meeting rooms and toilets.
  • Interviews can be held in meeting rooms that support hearing loops.
  • Accessibility dogs are welcomed.
  • Papers and materials can be presented in different formats if needed.
  • A sign language interpreter can be accessed for an interview.
  • Working patterns and locations can be adjusted.

Applicants with a disability are invited to contact us in confidence at any point during the recruitment process to discuss steps that could be taken to overcome operational difficulties presented by the role, or if any adjustments or support are required regarding the recruitment process.

For further information or to organise a conversation, please contact our advising consultants at Peridot Partners:

Jennifer Horan | jennifer@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07519 070497

Lucy Mavers | lucy@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07947 935068

    To access a full job description and application details,
    please fill out the form below.

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    Thank you for your interest in this role. Please download the Role Description and Person Specification.

    To formally apply, we are happy to receive your application in a written or spoken format in the form of a video; an application will include a CV and a supporting statement that clearly outlines your motivation for applying for the role and your suitability for the role against the criteria provided in the person specification.

    Please ensure that your application is emailed to response@peridotpartners.co.uk inserting “Chair – Ambitious about Autism and Ambitious about Autism Schools Trust” into the subject field.

    For further information about the role, or to arrange a confidential discussion, please contact our advising consultants at Peridot Partners:

    Jennifer Horan | jennifer@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07519 070497

    Lucy Mavers | lucy@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07947 935068

    As a sector-leading executive search consultancy, we know the importance of creating recruitment processes which are fair, inclusive and free from bias. We are committed to promoting equality and diversity and developing a process that values differences.

    If you have a disability that meets the definition set out in the Equality Act 2010, and you can show that you meet the ‘essential’ criteria described in the person specification, please let us know.

    If you experience any technical or accessibility difficulties, need help making an application, or have any additional support that needs to be considered as part of the interview and selection process, please let us know.

    Recruitment selection processes are based on evidence of competence stated in the person specification and in relation to our values.

    Ambitious about Autism is fully committed to equality of opportunity and diversity and we warmly welcome applications from all suitably-qualified candidates. We welcome applications regardless of race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, marital or civil partner status, pregnancy or maternity, disability, or age. All applications will be considered solely on merit.

    Timetable

    Closing date: Friday 31st May 2024
    Candidates informed of outcome: Monday 10th June 2024
    Preliminary Interviews with Ambitious about Autism: Monday 17th June 2024
    Candidates informed of outcome: Wednesday 19th June 2024
    Stakeholder Day: Friday 21st June 2024 at Ambitious about Autism
    Final Interviews: Wednesday 3rd July 2024
    Successful candidate approved at board meeting: 19th July 2024


    Equal Opportunities Monitoring

    Peridot, Ambitious about Autism and Ambitious about Autism Schools Trust are committed to promoting equality and diversity. To help us raise awareness and support a culture that is diverse and recognises and develops the potential of all, we need to appreciate the profile of candidates who apply for positions. We will send you an equality monitoring survey at the point of receiving your application, in the interview phase and at the time of placement. This ensures that our processes remain inclusive and equitable throughout, and provides us with important data to help us showcase our impact. The information will be treated confidentially and anonymously and will help us to support our commitment to fair recruitment practices. All information provided will be held in the strictest confidence and will not be shared with anyone, in line with the Data Protection Act 2018. The information provided does not form part of the decision-making process and will not affect your application.


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