I joined Ambitious about Autism in August 2010 as Head of Policy and Public Affairs. I lead our work to get the needs of children with autism up the political agenda, to try and make sure they get the best possible education wherever they go to school.
When TreeHouse School was first set up, the founding parents wanted to make a difference for all young people with autism, not just those who attended the school. So we have always had a focus on campaigning, to try and influence policy so that our whole education system works as well as possible for young people with autism. Our small team exists to do just that.
It is an absolute gift for a policy person like me to work at Ambitious about Autism. We are based in the same building as the school, so get to spend time with young people, parents, teachers, and allied health professionals. We are also involved in our online community ‘Talk about Autism’, which gives us access to the views of thousands of parents, professionals, and adults with autism. We are constantly in touch with people directly affected by education policy and autism, so we can gather views and evidence from ‘the front line’ and feed this all back to government.
A typical day for me starts in a typically geeky way: listening to Radio 4’s Today programme for the latest political news! I’ll then be in the office, preparing a briefing for a parliamentary debate about early intervention for disabled children, or meeting with colleagues to plan a launch event for our latest campaign. I might look through a report over lunch, such as Ofsted’s recent report on 16-19 education. Most days I’ll have a meeting out of the office. Maybe with an MP to try and gain their support for a campaign. Occasionally with a Minister or a government Special Adviser, to explain why and how they should change a Bill going through Parliament. Often I meet other campaigners in the sector to coordinate a campaign, for example on protecting legal aid in education cases.
The great thing about working in a small team in a very busy environment is that there’s always a huge range of things to get stuck into. And the broader Communications, Policy and Research team that I work in is full of enthusiastic and talented people. So I always feel supported and encouraged however busy it is!
But the best thing has to be being part of the school. The playground is right by my window, and there is nothing more motivating than seeing pupils with autism learning new skills with their amazing teachers, and knowing it’s our job to make sure every child with autism has that chance at school.