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Executive Head Ambitious about Autism

Join Ambitious about Autism and bring your skills as an experienced leader of SEND provision to lead the development and growth of St John’s College.

  • Location: Brighton, East Sussex
  • Salary: c.£100,000 dependent on skills and experience

The Story of Ambitious about Autism

At Ambitious about Autism, we have an unwavering commitment to working with autistic children and young people, advocating for their rights, and supporting them to achieve their dreams.

We firmly believe that every autistic child and young person has the fundamental right to be themselves and to realise their ambitions. We began as a single school and are proud to have evolved into a leading national provider of support for autistic people. The work we do creates opportunities and unlocks doors.

We began in 1997 when a group of dedicated parents established the TreeHouse Trust. This initiative aimed to break down barriers and ensure that autistic children and young people had access to the education they not only needed but deserved. Since then, our influence has expanded significantly across the United Kingdom.

While we take pride in our achievements, the unfortunate reality is that autistic children and young people still grapple with a lack of understanding and proper support. The global pandemic has further turned their worlds upside down, amplifying the urgency for our support.

Autism affects at least 1 in 100 people in the UK. We exist to provide support for autistic young people to unlock their potential.

The statistics underscore the importance of what we do and why we exist:

  • Awaiting an autism diagnosis, 70% of under-18s surpass the NHS 13-week deadline.
  • Parents, plagued by worry about their child’s school placement, lose sleep—80% of them, to be exact.
  • Fewer than half of autistic children and young people find happiness in their school environment.
  • Only 29% of autistic individuals secure full or part-time employment, marking the lowest rate among disabled groups.
  • 79% of autistic individuals grapple with social isolation, a consequence of widespread misunderstanding.

Learn more about us and our Time for Ambition strategy

About St John’s College

Situated in the diverse city of Brighton, St John’s is a happy, inspiring college where young people thrive and learn. We offer an inclusive, residential learning environment for young autistic people who require the support and care that many mainstream educational settings cannot provide.

We offer both day and residential placements, alongside care and therapy for autistic learners aged 16 – 25 years with a range of complex needs and associated learning disabilities. We provide a broad and stimulating curriculum with individual programs for each learner to ensure their hidden potential is unleashed. Our learners benefit from a range of activities such as drama, music, performances, open mic nights, dance, swimming and horse riding and, of course, our learners undertake travel training to engage with the community and local projects. As a national provider, our learners come from across the country and are supported by a transdisciplinary team who are specialists in helping them achieve their individual goals. When our learners reside with us, they do so in one of our five dedicated residential homes.

Our amazing team works with parents/carers, our governing body and our partners to develop and share our model and practice.

Earlier this year, we announced that we would be merging with Ambitious about Autism, and this became official on 1st October this year. We are committed to working with colleagues across the organisation to achieve better outcomes for autistic children and young people.

About the role

Our current interim Executive Head will leave us at the end of this academic year, having supported us through the merger and transition phase. We are now seeking to appoint her successor, who will be able to lead the development and improvement of our provision across the College into the future.

Our new Executive Head will be responsible for the strategic direction of the College, including residential provision.

They will work with our Board, led by the College Chair, Fiona Chalk, to drive quality improvement, widen our provision and continue to grow our reputation of being a nationally recognised provider of specialist provision.

The Executive Head will continue to ensure that policies, practices and processes are harmonised in line with those of Ambitious about Autism.

This role exists to provide on-site leadership of the provision delivered across St Johns. Our Executive Head is the key figure driving the provision, acting in line with our organisational values and being a supporting, developmental leader who can bring our staff team on a collective journey towards success.

Our new Executive Head will lead the development and implementation of strategic plans for St John’s College, which will require strong and decisive leadership coupled with an ability to recognise opportunities for growth and improvement. Our Executive Head will also have a role to play in forging new relationships with stakeholders whilst growing the reputation of St John’s College on a local and national basis as a respected and credible ambassador.

The role is vital in developing and implementing the “Ambitious Approach” within St John’s College, fostering a culture of excellence in autism education.

The Executive Heads and the Heads of our other settings, along with the Head of Safeguarding and Compliance, the Head of Integrated Services and the Head of Learner and Family Services, make up the Executive Education Management Team (EEMT). They meet twice a term to ensure shared quality and consistency across our education provision. As an Executive Head, you would be expected to be part of this very successful team.

Who we are looking for

Ideal candidates for this role will have experience at an executive level with a demonstrable understanding of specialist education with learners of a similar age range.

Whilst this is undoubtedly an exciting role, it is very busy too. With this in mind, the successful candidate will be someone who can get up to speed quickly with the immediate challenges faced by St John’s College whilst also having a long-term vision of the available opportunities.

As the Executive Head of St John’s College, you will oversee the leadership team across the College and residential services and work in partnership with the wider leadership across Ambitious about Autism. You will be engaging with a diverse range of stakeholders, which includes young people, parents and carers, commissioners, and regulatory bodies, so experience of successfully working with such groups will be essential.

We seek an experienced leader who can join our vibrant and inclusive College and take it on the next step of its journey using your experience of organisational development, growth and transformation.

Most importantly, our ideal candidate will be someone who can lead by example, using a set of shared values, to deliver our strategy that seeks to drive excellence in autism education, foster innovation, and make a lasting impact on the lives of autistic children and young people.

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

Dan Baxter | dan@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07939 994524

Eddie Caviezel Cox | eddiec@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07951 920768

If you would like to know more about this role please contact Dan Baxter

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Welcome from Viv Berkeley, Director of Education

Thank you for your interest in the role of Executive Head at Ambitious about Autism. I hope that you will find our mission and this opportunity exciting and compelling and will consider joining our team. If you are ambitious and forward-thinking, this is a role for you. It offers a unique opportunity to join a thoroughly values-driven organisation.

Ambitious about Autism has achieved and developed so much since it was founded in 1997. Our education services continue to grow and develop to support the increasing and changing needs of autistic children and young people. Our outstanding TreeHouse School continues to be innovative in meeting the needs of autistic children and young people with learning disabilities. The Rise School opened in 2014 as the first special free school in our multi-academy trust. It is co-located with Springwest Academy and its Sixth Form is co-located with West Thames College. Ambitious College opened in the same year and was London’s first autism-specific day college serving autistic young people with learning disabilities aged 16 to 25 years. Now, it has two permanent campuses co-located and developed in partnership with mainstream further education colleges and a Supported Internship programme with the Whittington Trust. In September 2023, we opened Spring School in Kingston as part of our Trust. At capacity, it will support 100 autistic pupils aged 4-19. Throughout our settings, we support over 420 autistic children and young people.

In September 2023, Ambitious about Autism merged with St John’s, a Brighton-based charity serving a similar cohort. This is a very exciting point in our history. We are now looking to recruit a highly successful Executive Head to join our education leadership team to oversee the college in Brighton. The successful candidate will bring established strategic leadership experience, credibility, and expertise in SEND education. Above all, we are looking for someone who will share an absolute commitment to our mission and values. We are searching for an honest, approachable, adaptable, resilient, patient, motivated, knowledgeable and excellent communicator who can demonstrate that they work with integrity and respect for all.

This challenge is both exciting and significant, and I hope very much that you will consider this opportunity to contribute to our future and the lives of autistic children and young people.

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

Dan Baxter | dan@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07939 994524

Eddie Caviezel Cox | eddiec@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07951 920768

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 in order to accommodate people from diverse communities and abilities. We offer the following amenities:

  • Step-free access to the building, all key meeting rooms and bathrooms, and an accessible workstation.
  • Accessibility dogs are welcome.
  • Interviews can be held in meeting rooms that support hearing loops.
  • Papers and materials can be presented in different formats.
  • A sign language interpreter can be accessed for interviews.
  • 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:

Dan Baxter | dan@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07939 994524

Eddie Caviezel Cox | eddiec@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07951 920768

    To access a full job description and application details,
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    Thank you for your interest in this role. Please download the Job Description and Person Specification.

    To formally apply, please submit a CV and supporting statement (ideally maximum 2 sides of A4 each) that clearly outlines your suitability for the role against the criteria provided in the person specification, including your interest and motivation in applying for this position.

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

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

    Dan Baxter | dan@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07939 994524

    Eddie Caviezel Cox | eddiec@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07951 920768

    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.

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


    Closing date: 9 a.m. Wednesday 6th December 2023
    Candidates informed of outcome: Wednesday 20th December 2023
    Stakeholder Day – a visit to site and engagement with stakeholders: Monday 8th January 2024
    Final interviews: Wednesday 10th January 2024

    Equal Opportunities Monitoring

    Peridot and Ambitious about Autism 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 practice. All information provided will be held in the strictest confidence and will not be shared with anyone, in line with the new Data Protection Act 2018 launched on 25 May 2018. The information provided does not form part of the decision-making process and will not affect your application.

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