Rantzen backs school for autistic children

PUBLISHED: 16:52 24 February 2010 | UPDATED: 10:36 12 August 2010

A SUPERMUM who founded an education service dedicated to children with autism is to transform a former private girls school into an independent special needs centre.

A SUPERMUM who founded an education service dedicated to children with autism is to transform a former private girls' school into an independent special needs centre.

Mum-of-two Anna Kennedy, who founded Hillingdon Manor School in Middlesex in the 1990s for pupils on the autistic spectrum, is to open another institute in Bromley.

Her company, Hillcrest Austism Services, has acquired the former private girls' school, Baston House, in Hayes.

The school, which will accommodate up to 50 students aged three to 19, is due to open this September after a full refurbishment. It will provide special education for pupils with an autistic spectrum condition.

She said: "I know how much anguish and frustration parents can go through in their search for suitable facilities, having been turned away by 26 special needs schools when I was searching for appropriate education for my two sons, who are both affected by autism.

"Baston House is a lovely school in five acres of beautiful grounds and my team and I are really looking forward to opening the doors in September, and opening up a new chapter of special needs education in Kent."

Ms Kennedy founded Hillingdon Care and Support (HACS) charity in 1997 after she was unable to find suitable provision for her two sons, Patrick and Angelo.

Two years later, she remortgaged her home and transformed a derelict council building in Middlesex into Hillingdon Manor School.

Now, the school is a centre of excellence and her struggle to provide good resources for autistic children has led to her co-writing the biography Not Stupid and being voted Woman of the Year in an award run by The Observer and Smooth Radio.

Ms Kennedy added: "It has been a long haul and full of ups and downs but I don't regret the struggle.

"We want to provide relevant and meaningful education on the national curriculum to children on the high end of the spectrum and with complex needs so they can live as independent a life as possible."

Alison Hunter, chief executive of Bromley Autism Trust, said: "With the increasing number of diagnoses in the borough, we are delighted to hear of more autism specific provision in Bromley and wish the school every success."

The independent school in Baston Road will be registered by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) and will be funded by local authorities.

Patron of Hillingdon Manor, Esther Rantzen, has agreed to be a patron of Baston House School and is due to be at the opening ceremony in September.

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