My name is Katie Parlett and I am the proud founder and now CEO of Lighthouse Futures Trust.
I have an amazing daughter, Eve, who has Retts syndrome and autism. When she was 12, back in 2009, I realised that the education system wasn’t really drawing out her skills and talents. I started talking with 4 other parents with sons and daughters with similar support needs and we decided we needed to do something about it.
After two long and challenging years of meetings, business planning, fundraising and negotiations, Lighthouse School opened its doors in 2012. It was the first Special Free School in the country, based on the former Cookridge Hospital site in North Leeds and I now chair the Board of Governors.
We were able to take one of the former hospital buildings and turn it into a tailor-made destination for students aged 8 to 18 with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Development (ASD). Alongside academic learning, the school has a clear focus on social and communication skills, developing independence and helping each and every one of our students move on to a positive future. All of this is delivered in a calm, happy and supportive environment where our students can thrive. Starting with just 20 students in 2012, we will be welcoming 84 in September 2021. (www.lighthouseschool.org.uk).
In order to support some of the extra-curricular activities, we initially set up “Friends of Lighthouse School” as a registered charity. This originally focused on raising funds to buy equipment and fund activities that were outside the scope of the statutory funding that the school receives. After the first three years we realised that, despite the high-quality education we gave our students in the classroom, their future outlook was poor once they had left us. Accordingly, in 2015, we changed the name of the charity to Lighthouse Futures Trust and began to focus more on programmes designed to help young people aged 16-25 to move into employment.
The charity operates completely separately from the school with an independent board of trustees/directors although there are close bonds between the two organisations.