Special school
Oberlin Cottage, Oberlin Street, Greenacres, Oldham, OL4 3HS


From 5 to 16 years old


Bright Futures School focuses on the core difficulties that lie at the heart of autism. These include problems with rigid thinking, managing uncertainty and change, social interaction and understanding and managing emotions.These are difficulties that are at the root of distressed (challenging) behaviour.

At Bright Futures projects and activities involve academic learning but the first priority is to work on these core difficulties rather than just compensating for or working around them.

This is achieved by using the development of typical children as our model. The approach is strongly influenced by the thinking and research behind Relationship Development Intervention.

We cater for 5 to 16 year olds with autism and are currently developing post 16 provision.
Any parent of a child with autism can ring the school to arrange a time to visit and to talk to the Head of Development. If parents then want a place for their child AND if the Head of Development feels the child will fit with the current cohort of pupils, parents should then seek agreement from their local authority to have Bright Futures School named on the child's statement or EHC Plan.
We have 12 places in total

Contact phone

01457 878738 or 07891 553 482

Opening times

Monday to Thursday 9.15am - 3pm, Friday 10.10am - 3pm (Term time)
Ofsted URN: 105748

Ofsted rating


How do you identify special educational needs and disabilities?

We cater for children with a diagnosis of autism between the ages of 5-16 years. We are currently developing post 16 provision.

How do you support a child with extra needs?

Each student’s educational programme is planned and overseen by the Head of Learning working closely with the full staff team to monitor and review progress on a termly basis. Bright Futures School used a programme called B Squared to monitor the progress of each student against specific targets in all the national curriculum subjects. Older students have gained and continue to work towards further ASDAN qualifications. ASDAN provides a range of courses covering preparation for life and work, enrichment subjects, PSHE and Citizenship. Every ASDAN course is designed to develop learners’ personal and employability skills through an engaging and challenging curriculum of activities, leading to a certificate of accreditation or achievement. They range in duration from 10 hours to 150 hours. Each student’s social communication programme is overseen by the Head of Development (a qualified RDI Consultant) working in conjunction with an external RDI Consultant supervisor. These two staff members train and support individual team members in how to become ‘guides’ to help each student overcome key autism difficulties. Using everyday activities such as cooking, sewing, crafting, each staff member then works on specific objectives with different students and this interaction is videoed so that progress can be analysed. Data is collected and tracked on a bespoke online learning system. Progress is also externally scrutinised by an Educational Psychologist, who analyses the Vineland Adaptive Behaviour Scale and the Social Responsiveness Scale annually for each student. Rigorous and regular monitoring of both academic and social communication progress enables us to ensure we are targeting key areas of learning and that our inputs are effective. Bright Futures School has 8 staff, each with a different area of specialism. Full details can be found on our web site or in our Parent Information packs. Bright Futures School is a special independent school and so does not operate with Governors or Trustees. The proprietors are Zoe Thompson and Dixon Milburn. There is a very proactive PTA called Friends of Bright Futures School.

How do ensure a child’s education meets their needs?

As part of the transition planning to transfer a student to BFS, the Head of Development works with parents to look at their child’s strengths and difficulties, likes and dislikes, and to develop a student profile. Students can also be involved in this process either directly or via their parent gathering this information for us. Parents know their child best and so their information is what drives the profile. The Heads of Learning and Development will also review documentation from previous school placement/s to help make the decision about how much and what type of support a new student will need. Baseline assessments will be done in each of the curriculum areas as well as in the area of social communication. All this information will then be composited to inform the development of an initial learning plan and an individualised timetable will be produced. Implementation of the timetable is kept under close review in the initial weeks to make sure it is working for the student. Wherever possible, we try to use the student’s areas of interest as a ‘hook’ to hang learning on e.g. one of our students loves wolves, so we have taught numeracy and literacy using wolf-related activities as our vehicle.

How will we know my child is progressing?

As part of the transition planning to transfer a student to BFS, the Head of Development works with parents to look at their child's strengths and difficulties, likes and dislikes, to to develop a student profile. Students can also be involved in this process either directly or via their parent gathering this information for us. We baseline students’ current levels of learning via B Squared, which monitors progress against national curriculum indicators in all subjects. Our ASDAN programme also monitors progress and students know they have achieved when they are awarded a certificate for the appropriate level. Our social communication programme has its own online monitoring system where we can show progress against specific targets via video footage that we have captured during ‘guiding’ sessions at school where these targets are worked on. Following consultation with each student and their parents, we devise a learning plan annually that covers both the academic and the social communication domains. This plan is based on an analysis of previous progress and which next steps need to be mastered in order to achieve the next target. The plan then forms the basis for termly review of progress, as well as informing each students’ individualised timetable. Parents are kept up to date on a daily basis about their child’s progress and wellbeing by means of their communication book. Managerial staff are always available at the beginning and end of the school day to speak to any parent who has a pressing issue or who wants some guidance or support. Most of our families take advantage of this on a regular basis and find it very helpful and supportive.

How will you support my child’s overall wellbeing?

Our staff team provides extensive support to each student and their family to ensure that student wellbeing is supported. This includes: a) Monitoring students’ moods and levels of happiness on a daily basis by reading their communication book and on weekly basis by having a standing item on the weekly staff meeting agenda and taking action following extensive discussion amongst the staff team where appropriate. b) Excellent communication and ‘handover’ between staff if a student is showing any signs of dysregulation. c) Troubleshooting specific problems or anxieties with individual students during social communication ‘guiding’ sessions via mind mapping and role play (this enables the student to generate, ‘own’ and implement their own solutions to problems). d) Providing regular opportunities for our students to give feedback on their timetables and schemes of study, and negotiating mutually agreed solutions where a student expresses dissatisfaction. e) Consulting quickly with parents if a student is showing signs of any kind of dysregulation that doesn’t have its origins in the school setting. f) Implementing an ‘emotional thermometer’ chart for any student who struggles to keep their mood and motivation on an even keel. This chart is used every session and during all breaks so that mood fluctuations can be monitored and/or triggers identified and addressed. g) Our Head of Development works with each family to ensure that individual students are getting what they are entitled to via health and social care services. We invariably find that families are missing out on services and with her knowledge of the legal framework relating to disabled children’s services, our Head of Development is well placed to ensure each student has access to appropriate funding from health and social care to fund access to leisure activities and wellbeing services outside school. h) We have a good relationship with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and have worked closely with both CAMHS and other support services (GPs, social workers, family support services) to ensure that our students’ wellbeing is maximised and any fluctuations are addressed as soon as possible. i) Administration of medicines follows our Ofsted approved school policy. j) We have an extensive behaviour management and support structure, which is underpinned by a culture that states ‘there must not be a social communication accident’. We have found that most challenging behaviour is a result either of the anxiety that is an integral part of autism or of breakdowns in communication. For these reasons, we work hard to ensure that levels of anxiety are monitored constantly so that remedial action can be taken to support a student as soon as possible. We also carefully manage our students’ interpersonal relationships to avoid misunderstandings. As a consequence, our school environment is harmonious, warm and friendly. k) We use exclusions sparingly and usually as a time for a student to ‘stop and think’ about their behaviour rather than as a punishment. As a result, students return to school acknowledging their mistake/s and ready to start afresh. Occasionally this will require facilitation from staff. l) Our students have an excellent attendance record. In the past we have had some difficulties with the attendance of one student, but we worked hard both with him and with his family to look at and remove the obstacles to full attendance.

What specialist services and expertise are available?

Our Head of Development is a qualified Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) Consultant. She works closely with an external RDI Consultant supervisor to ensure that all aspects of social communication and emotional regulation are worked on in school. Our RDI network gives us access to practitioners with many areas of expertise, including top Clinical Psychologists. We have successfully used guidance from international practitioners in the past when guidance locally and nationally has not been available for a specific issue. We are able to commission other expertise as appropriate and have excellent working relationships with our local Speech and Language Therapists and Educational Psychologists. We are currently (Jan 15) developing a sensory and reflex integration programme that will take place in school on a weekly basis for each student.

How are staff trained on extra needs?

Each new member of staff undertakes an autism training course that is supervised by our Head of Development. This course looks at typical early years child development, how autistic development differs, how this impacts the child and their family, and how ‘guiding’ can help to give children with autism another chance to master developmental milestones that they have missed when their autism got in the way. Each member of staff is then supervised by our Head or Development to develop the skills to become a ‘guide’. Guiding is what we call our social communication programme that works on the difficulties at the heart of autism. Staff then film guiding sessions with individual students and receive feedback from our Head of Development on their progress in helping the student to achieve key social communication targets. Each member of staff is therefore participating in training on an ongoing basis. We have a half hour autism/guiding training input every week during staff meeting when we view different pieces of footage together that illustrate key training points. We have intensive guiding training during our termly INSET days.

What activities are there outside the classroom?

Each of our older pupils takes part in individualised work placements in an area of interest. School trips are organised around common interests, so that our students can access together an activity that they all enjoy. In the past, these have included Laser-Ace, Dodgems, animal farm parks. We do also have students who feel unable to join in with group activities. Individualised activities of the student’s choice are planned for these students with a specific member of staff.

How will you support my child's needs?

The ground floor of the school can be accessed by a wheelchair but there are no disabled toilet facilities and the sensory room (first floor) is not wheelchair accessible.

How do you support children when they start and leave?

BFS employs a member of staff with responsibility for transitions. This team member works with each student individually to help them identify employment that they might enjoy and to choose goals that they can work towards to help them access that employment. We also consult with parents and with the local authority Transitions Officer to look at what opportunities are available to our students. Our Head of Development works with each student to look at what social communication competencies will be needed for their chosen employment. We have found that doing this has motivated students more to work on their areas of difficulty in social communication and emotional regulation.

What is available to help my child with their education?

The school does not have a special educational needs budget. All our costs (building rent, amenities, salaries etc) are met from the funding that comes in with each child's statement/EHCP. The school proprietors decide how to allocate the budget.

What support can I expect for my child?

Please see above under "How will the curriculum be matched to my child’s/young person's needs?"

How will I be involved in my child's education?

The proprietors of BFS are parents of a child with autism themselves. They know exactly what battles and difficulties other parents have been through in trying to secure the right education and other services for their child and this is what drives the school’s philosophy of putting the child and family at the centre of everything. Parents are involved in the school through regular planning meetings and annual reviews. The Heads of Learning and Development have an open door policy on communication and welcome email or telephone calls from parents where there is something important to discuss. Some parents take full advantage of this, others only contact school in an emergency. Parents are also kept up to date on their child’s daily progress by means of the communication book. The school has an active PTA – Friends of Bright Futures School (FBFS), which is a charity and includes parents amongst its Trustees. FBFS has recently secured funding to run a course for other parents, which looks at how social communication can help children and how to ensure social communication provision is embedded in a child’s EHC Plan.
Updated: 19/09/2018