Ascent College background

The history of Ascent College, formerly known as Wargrave House School, dates back to 1969 when Bessie Berman presented her idea for a school specifically for children with autism, leading to the opening of the first residential weekly-boarding school in the North West of England in 1971, and subsequently expanding to include Lakeside House for post-16 education and the Lakeside Early Adulthood Provision (LEAP) for 16-25-year-olds.

Where did it all start?

Bessie Berman, our Founder and first principal, held a deep interest in special education, particularly autism. The lack of schools led her to present her ideas for setting up such a school specifically for children with autism at the General Meeting of the Society of Friends (Quakers) in February 1969. The Barrow and Geraldine Cadbury Trust provided a very considerable sum to start the school with further donations from the Society for Autistic Children, which became the National Autistic Society (NAS).

In September 1971, the doors of Wargrave House School opened and became the first residential weekly-boarding school specifically for children with Autism in the North West of England.

Throughout the next 20 years, the building continued.

In 1994, after several school extensions were required due to its success, the newly built Lakeside House opened at the rear of the current school, providing Post-16 further education. Finally, in September 2012, we opened our first Adult College for 16-25-year-olds, called Lakeside Early Adulthood Provision (LEAP).

The Preloved Shop & Café, part of our provision, opened at the Lyme & Wood Learning Hub based in Newton-le-Willows in the summer of 2022, enabling our students to gain skills in hospitality and retail. You can find more information about the project here.

Due to increased student interest on 05 May 2023 we became Ascent Autism Specialist College offering a wide range of courses.


However, please do not hesitate to contact us on 01925 224899 if you need further information.

Specialist college launch ‘Hubway’ project

Ascent Autism Specialist College, Newton-le-Willows, has launched the ‘Hubway’ project, an initiative run by two students, Will and Tarran, to help them develop entrepreneurial skills and support them to integrate socially with their peers from the college’s main...

Finalists in the Liverpool City Region Culture & Creativity Awards

Ascent Autism Specialist College, based in Newton-le-Willows, has been shortlisted for two prestigious awards at the Liverpool City Region (LCR) Culture & Creativity Awards 2024. The shortlist, which was announced earlier today, revealed that the college had been...