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Local autistic students get a taste for construction

The ‘Curriculum Construction Project’ has been launched at the National Autistic Society’s Anderson School in Chigwell. Sponsored and run by the Anderson Foundation, supported by Buildbase, the project is aimed at giving the school’s students a taster of work in the construction industry.

Father and son duo Steve and Andy Hammond, who form part of the training team at the Chelmsford-based Anderson Group, have been fitting out purpose-built workshops in the school so that six students at a time can have their own uninterrupted work area. There are also individual tool boxes for each student all of which, along with all the building materials, have been supplied free of charge by nationwide builder’s merchant Buildbase.

Students will learn about site and tool handling safety, the basics of painting and decorating, brickwork and tiling. Rotating through the upper years of the school, all students in years 8, 9 and 10 will spend half a term working on these projects. The plan is that this taster will inspire students to pursue apprenticeships or employment within the construction industry.

The National Autistic Society has been providing specialist education to children and young people on the autism spectrum for over 50 years. The charity currently runs eight schools, including the Anderson School which opened in September 2017 and which will eventually cater for up to 128 autistic students aged 11 to 19.

Just 16% of autistic adults are estimated to be in full-time paid employment. The school is trying to address this by preparing students for life, further education and employment through tailored support, academic qualifications, vocational courses, including projects like this construction one.

Every autistic child is different, and many become overwhelmed in school – by things like bright lights, loud noises or other children’s unpredictable behaviour. But the right support at the right time can make all the difference. Some children on the autistic spectrum are able to excel in mainstream schools while others require extensive support in specialist settings, such as the National Autistic Society’s Anderson School.

Gary Simm, Principal of the National Autistic Society’s Anderson School, said: “We have high ambitions for all our students. We want to give each of them as many opportunities as possible to explore future career choices and gain experience in a safe and known environment.

“Creating links with industry is central to this. We’re delighted to be working with the Anderson Foundation on this exciting project – and grateful to Mark for making it all happen.

“Our school has only been open a year, but the students have achieved a huge amount already. We’re growing all the time and with projects like this there’s really no limit to what our students can achieve.”

Mark Anderson, Chairman of the Anderson Group and Foundation, added: “The Anderson Foundation continues to pledge its support to the National Autistic Society’s Anderson School, and the construction skills project will go further in getting pupils into the world of work where previously there has been a lack of opportunity.

“Steve and Andy, alongside Gary, are doing in this programme everything that the School was set up for: enacting meaningful change in the community.

“It’s a privilege to be able to use the Anderson Foundation’s affiliation with the Buildbase to draw upon the resource, expertise and kindness of our partners. A genuine thank you to them, too!”

Mark Lever, Chief Executive of the National Autistic Society, added: “I’m always struck by the huge potential of the autistic children in our schools and want to make sure they’re given the platform they need to excel.

“This is one of a number of projects we’re hoping to launch to give our students experience of careers in different industries. It highlights how partnerships between charities and generous organisations like the Anderson Group and Buildbase can benefit young people on the autism spectrum. We really appreciate their support.”

For information about the Anderson Group and Anderson Foundation, please contact Chris at:

For more information about the National Autistic Society’s Anderson School, please contact: Piers at:

The National Autistic Society

  • The National Autistic Society is the UK’s leading charity for people on the autism spectrum and their families. Founded in 1962, it provides information, support and pioneering services, and campaigns for a better world for people on the autism spectrum.
  • To find out more about autism or the National Autistic Society, visit

What is autism?

  • Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others.
  • More than 1 in 100 people are on the autism spectrum, including an estimated 700,000 people in the UK.
  • Every person on the autism spectrum is different. It can present some serious challenges – but, with the right support and understanding, autistic people and their families can live full lives.
  • Although everyone is different, people on the autism spectrum may:
  • Be under or oversensitive to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours, which can make everyday life extremely difficult
  • Find social situations and change a challenge, sometimes leading to extreme levels of anxiety
  • Experience a ‘meltdown’ if overwhelmed by anxiety or sensory overload
  • Benefit from extra time to process and respond to communication.

The Anderson Foundation

  • The Anderson Foundation is a charitable foundation linked to the Anderson Group: a construction and development company set up in 1987 by Mark Anderson.
  • Primarily, the Anderson Foundation uses its fundraising and property development experience to provide support for the National Autistic Society.
  • Each year, the Anderson Foundation raises hundreds of thousands of pounds through charity galas, luncheons, its cycle ride and various other events.
  • In 2017, through collaboration with the NAS, the Anderson Foundation completed and opened the National Autistic Society’s Anderson School, a 13-acre school and enterprise campus in Chigwell, Essex.