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GC hosts Ambitious about Autism event with Minister for Disabled People

24 March 2015

On Friday 20 March, Gloucestershire College welcomed Minister for Disabled People, Mark Harper MP, to a successful event at Cheltenham Campus to mark its completion of a two-year programme that supported local young people with autism to access further education (FE). 

The College took part in the Finished at School Programme, run by national charity Ambitious about Autism, to help improve support for students with autism as they move into college. Sponsored by the Department for Education, the programme was developed because fewer than one in four young people with autism go on to FE after school and only 15% of adults with autism are in full-time employment. 

Working in partnership with The Milestone School, Alderman Knight School and The Dean Academy, Gloucestershire College acted as a hub to:

  • develop staff skills and autism awareness;
  • improve person-centred planning for students;
  • strengthen assessment processes for students;
  • design curriculum pathways for students; and
  • make sure students were able to access everything college life offered.

The Minister for Disabled People, Mark Harper, met staff and students who took part in the Finished at School Programme and heard how Gloucestershire College spent two years working to ensure it became one of the leading organisations in the country for students with autism.

He spoke about the work he has undertaken to help disabled people and answered questions from the audience about the concerns they have about children with autism. These ranged from how they are going to cope with new GCSE papers to how he plans on helping people with autism not only gain but keep a job.

Joe Baldwin, Head of Learning Support and SEND Transition at Gloucestershire College, said: “We’re thrilled the Minister for Disabled People Mark Harper MP joined us to hear how the Finished at School Programme has helped make our college more accessible for students with autism.

“We took part in the programme because we believe young people with autism have the right to an education beyond school. We’re really proud of how everyone involved worked together to transform the experience students with autism have when they go to college. We’ve found that our students have really benefitted from the programme and are sure this will improve their chances of getting a job or going to university.”

Jolanta Lasota, Chief Executive of Ambitious about Autism, said: “We created the Finished at School Programme to support young people with autism – including those with complex needs – to make the move from school to their local FE college. For many of these students this wouldn’t have been an option before. The programme has enabled them to attend their local college, learn new skills, take part in their community, and prepare for adulthood – just like other young people do.”

Ambitious about Autism has published a free guide on the lessons learned from the Finished at School Programme, which includes case studies from the four colleges and 13 schools across England involved. The guide contains practical advice to help staff better support young people with autism move from school into college.

For more information about Gloucestershire College’s Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Local Offer, call 01242 532065 or visit

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