Julliet Doherty, head of adult services at Ascent Autism Specialist College in Newton-le-Willows, has been named as one of only four finalists in the Specialist Provision School Leader of the Year Award at the TES Schools Awards.

The national awards celebrate and recognise the best schools and teachers across the country from UK state and independent schools, across early years settings, primary and secondary.

Julliet is the only finalist in the category from the North West.

Compiled by a panel of expert judges, the shortlist showcases the best in education across 21 award categories.

Julliet spearheaded the development and implementation of multiple initiatives that have significantly improved student experiences and helped establish stronger partnerships with the local community, employers and other organisations.

Under Julliet’s leadership, the relatively small specialist college has more than doubled its student numbers from 19 to 39.

In 2023, Julliet introduced an autism awareness training programme targeted at employers to help them gain a deeper understanding of how autistic individuals can add real value to the workforce.

The expansion of supported internships with training job coaches helped students work towards developing new transferrable skills for the future.

Unsurprisingly, the college was then awarded the National Autistic Society’s highest accreditation, the Beacon Status, in 2023 after demonstrating its commitment to delivering high-quality, consistent and innovative support and expertise.

Commenting on the news, Julliet said: “I am incredibly honoured and humbled to be named as a finalist in the Specialist Provision School Leader of the Year category at the TES Schools Awards.

“My goal at Ascent College has always been to ensure our students access educational opportunities that support their academic, social, emotional, and behavioural development.

“There is a common misconception around autistic individuals and alongside our fantastic team at the college, we are extremely passionate about challenging those ideas and celebrating neurodiversity.”

Ascent Autism Specialist College is part of the Remarkable Autism Charity. The charity is on a mission to help create a world where autistic individuals are empowered to live happy and fulfilled lives.

Robin Bush, CEO of Remarkable Autism, said: “From everyone at Remarkable Autism, we would like to say a massive congratulations to Julliet Doherty on this outstanding achievement.

“Julliet continuously goes above and beyond to push the boundaries of what is possible and enhance educational experiences for students. She is a passionate advocate for autistic individuals, championing and influencing positive change through innovative initiatives and pioneering programmes.

Robin added: “I am extremely proud of all that Julliet has achieved and wish her the best of luck, although to us, she is already a winner.”

Julliet will join the other finalists at the Grosvenor Hotel, Park Lane, London, on Friday, 21 June for an evening of glitz and glamour.

The full shortlist is available here.