The AET Board

The AET programme is governed by its Programme Board which determines its strategy, protects its values and supports, and holds the staff team to account for the delivery of its objectives.

Programme Board membership reflects a broad and rounded perspective from across the autism and education communities to include autistic people and parents.

Jolanta Lasota

Photo of Jolanta Lasota

Chief Executive of Ambitious about Autism, including the Schools Trust. Jolanta is Chair of the Autism Education Trust, Chair of the PBS Alliance, Trustee of the Autism Alliance, and member of the Civil Service Disability Expert Advisors Panel.

Jolanta is the Chief Executive of Ambitious about Autism, including the Schools Trust. Jolanta is Chair of the Autism Education Trust, Chair of the PBS Alliance, Trustee of the Autism Alliance and member of the Civil Service Disability Expert Advisors Panel. Previously, she was the founding Chief Executive of the charity Turn2us, Head of the Governance Hub and a Director of the charity I CAN. She has a passion for enabling children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, and their families, to live the life they choose.

Chief Executive of Ambitious about Autism 

Jolanta is Chief Executive of Ambitious about Autism and the Ambitious about Autism Schools Trust as well as the Accounting Officer for the Trust. She Chairs the Autism Education Trust, a partnership funded by the Department for Education to improve educational access, experience and outcomes for children and young people with autism. She also Chairs the PBS Alliance, a cross-sector body dedicated to improving the quality of life for people whose behaviour may challenge those providing services and support. She is part of the Expert Advisory Group for the Civil Service Disability Engagement Group. Her career includes Director roles in national voluntary sector organisations, including I CAN and the Governance Hub (a national body set up to support the governance of the third sector). She is a parent of an autistic child.

Claire Thomson

Claire Thomson

Claire is the Director of National Services at Ambitious About Autism and Vice Chair of the Autism Education Trust Programme Board.

She is a qualified teacher and experienced leader working across the education, inclusion and special needs sector; and Inspects regularly for Ofsted.

Claire's previous experience includes leading specialist education services for Local Authorities, designing and implementing school improvement programmes, specialist training solutions and service transformation across a range of education settings and services. Claire has consulted for the BBC to ensure education programmes are inclusive and has written various articles for publication. 

Ian Adam Bellamy

Ian Adam Bellamy

Partnerships and Communications Manager The Bridge London Trust

Ian has eight years’ experience managing projects and delivering innovative services in the not–for–profit and education sectors. He has researched, written, edited and tested training resources on subjects including understanding autism, supporting autistic young people to access further education and developing person–centred educational provision.

Early in his career, Ian was a member of the team which created the Autism Education Trust’s post–16 training programme and piloted the training across England. He subsequently led a project to expand the programme through the development of a transition from school to college training module, supported by the Department for Education following the completion of Ambitious about Autism’s Finished at School Programme.

Ian was recently responsible for managing the operations of a training and consultancy service which grew to deliver face–to–face training to 2,500 people a year, with an overall reach of 90,000 people including conferences and online seminars. He is currently working with The Bridge London Trust as their Partnerships and Communications Manager.

Jo Evans

Jo Evans

Jo Evans is the CEO of St Christopher’s Multi Academy Trust based in the Southwest of the UK. St Christopher’s became involved with the AET after winning a bid to support the development of its new materials. When the opportunity to become part of the board arose, it felt a natural progression.

Previously, Jo was a non-exec director of the Cambridge Primary Review and still contributes to local and national advisory bodies, including the Devon Autism Strategy Board.

Jo is passionate about enabling young people to flourish and brings her experience as a mum of two teenage sons, both on the autistic spectrum but with very different pathways. Whilst successfully leading schools, she has maintained a strong research interest throughout her career, contributing to books and articles along the way. Always a learner herself, she continues to write, facilitate and train, particularly in the areas of system leadership and developing organisational strategy. Jo has an MBA in educational leadership and an MEd focussed on SEND workforce development.

Dr Karen Guldberg

Dr Karen Guldberg

Dr Karen Guldberg is a Professor in Autism Studies. She has been Director of the Autism Centre for Education and Research (ACER) for the last 14 years and has been Head of the Department of Disability, Inclusion and Special Needs (DISN) at the School of Education, University of Birmingham for three years. She is Head of the School of Education, University of Birmingham from 6th June 2023. 

Karen’s research and teaching focuses on autism studies in education, and on inclusive practice in education and provision. Karen’s has over 50 publications, and one of her most recent publications include the book Developing Excellence in Autism Practice: Making a Difference in Education (Routledge). The book gives an overview and synthesis of current knowledge of relevance to the development of excellence in autism education.  

Karen ran the Autism Children Programme of study for many years. She also led the development and recent re-development of the Autism Education Trust (AET) partnership school-based, Early Years and Post-16 professional development programmes.  

Karen has been Principal-Investigator (P-I) or Co-Investigator (C-I) on 30 research or Knowledge Exchange projects. She has led several projects working in partnership with autistic people, practitioners and parents to research technology use and the learning arising from this. Recent research includes leading a strategic partnership to research and develop good autism educational practice in Greece and Italy and conducting research for the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) on how to improve autism education in Qatar. She has recently worked with colleagues to investigate educational exclusion of children and young people with autism from education, the experiences of marginalised families, as well as undertake research on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on autistic children, young people and their families.  

Sarah Haythornthwaite

Sarah Haythornthwaite

Sarah has a wealth of experience across a variety of markets. Sarah has spent much of her career helping organisations grow quickly by better understanding their customer and stakeholder needs. Sarah was appointed International Marketing Director at Renaissance in 2018, having previously worked as Sales and Marketing Director for GL Assessment, where she authored a number of influential reports.

Prior to working in the commercial sector, Sarah was a lecturer in Engineering at the University of the West of England, Bristol. Bringing a wealth of consultancy experience, Sarah has helped grow and transform businesses in South Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East – subsequently holding senior roles at leading household brand names, such as General Motors, 3 Mobile, Orange Mobile, Staples, Superdrug and General Motors.

For the last seven years, Sarah has brought her expertise in sales and marketing to the education sector. As a parent of an autistic child, Sarah is passionate about improving both the outcomes and opportunities for all children and young autistic people by working to support their needs within the education system.

Sarah was appointed International Marketing Director at Renaissance in 2018 having previously worked as Sales and Marketing Director for GL Assessments, where she authored a number of influential reports.

Since joining Renaissance, Sarah has overseen the launch of 'myON' Reader, a personalized digital literacy environment, and Freckle, an inclusive maths learning tool, to markets in the UK, China and Middle East, and has helped position the organisation as a thought-leader by cultivating strategic partnerships with influential bodies such as the Confederation of School Trusts (CST) and Education Policy Institute (EPI). In the UK, this work helped to contribute to Renaissance’s success in being awarded the Department for Education contract to research the impact of time lost to learning as a result of COVID-19.

To help support multi-academy trusts, Sarah worked with leaders at CST to build the Directors of Improvement Network, and also launched a Partner School initiative which connects teachers and leaders from across the world.

Sarah lives with her family in Marlow. She enjoys travelling, cooking, sailing and skiing and is often found at sports events at weekends. If pressed, she admits to being a QPR supporter.

Adam Micklethwaite

Adam Micklethwaite

Adam is the Director of the Autism Alliance, a national partnership of charities supporting autistic people and their families, and the parent of a young autistic person. His work focuses on improving policy, developing practice, and campaigning for change.

He is a member of the Department for Health and Social Care’s Implementation Group for the National Strategy for Autistic Children, Young People and Adults; the Department for Education’s autism charities group; and the NHS National Autism Steering Group; and chairs the national partnership of charities delivering Autism Central, a peer-led service providing education, signposting and help for parents can carers.

Prior to joining the Autism Alliance, Adam led partnerships at Good Things Foundation, the UK’s leading digital inclusion charity. This included programmes with the Department for Education, the Greater Manchester and West Midlands Combined Authorities, HM Revenue and Customs, HM Courts and Tribunals Service, and corporate partnerships with Google, J.P Morgan, BT and others.

Before this, Adam was a senior civil servant working across education and skills, advising on policy and leading national change programmes. This included establishing the first system of student loans in Further Education, and launching the National Careers Service.

Dr. Amelia Roberts

Dr. Amelia Roberts

Dr. Amelia Roberts is an Associate Professor at UCL, Deputy Director of UCL Centre for Inclusive Education and UCL Institute of Education’s Vice Dean (Enterprise). Dr Amelia Roberts’ research focuses on knowledge exchange and reflective practice to support teachers of vulnerable pupils and covers inclusive education, Lesson Study, Autism and whole school approaches to Social, Emotional and Mental Health.

She leads on the Knowledge Exchange programme ‘Supporting Wellbeing, Emotional Resilience and Learning’ currently funded by the DfE Ipswich Opportunity Area across 40 schools and the three year John Cass foundation funded project ‘Pathways to work for care leavers’.

Amelia leads on the Youth Endowment Foundation funded evaluation of the Evening Standard’s ‘The Excluded Initiative’, focused on developing new approaches to reducing exclusions. She is currently part of the research team on ‘Wellbeing and Behaviour: Identifying interventions for positive participation for young people at risk of exclusion in school in order to reduce adverse long term societal impact’ and Co-I on a 5-year funded evaluation of the ‘CLAP for Youth’ pathways to work project funded by the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

Amelia has worked with the Department for Education on a number of projects, including co-writing two reports for Whole School SEND and is currently an Inclusion Expert for the Standards and Testing Agency. Amelia led on the weekly publication of resources to help schools and families during Covid-19 related school disruption and now leads the ‘Back on Track’ project. She has spoken recently on Sky News, BBC South East today and BBC Radio on this and other topics. As part of her UCL role, she regularly visits the Falkland Islands and has worked with UNICEF in the Sultanate of Oman on an ‘Inclusive Classrooms’ project and led on an inclusive education project evaluation in Moldova with JK Rowling’s charity ‘The Lumos Foundation’. In 2019, Amelia spoke in Singapore as part of AWWA’s ‘Inclusion Expert’ Series.

John Roberts

John Roberts

Technology entrepreneur, parent of an autistic child and advocate of the use of touchscreen technology in special education.

John is a technology entrepreneur in the telecom, media, retail and education sectors and has recently set up a non-profit project to develop the use of touchscreen technology in SEND education, working with neuro-scientists and specialist schools across the UK. John is parent to a 17 year old boy with severe learning difficulties and autism and has been a governor at his school for the past 12 years.

Pam Simson

Pam Simson

Pam Simpson has worked in the field of autism education for many years  

As a manager of the Birmingham Communication and Autism Team (CAT)  Pam was responsible for leading on the  delivery of the Autism Education Trust (AET) training materials and good practice frameworks , promoting inclusive practice and positive outcomes for autistic pupils in Early Years, schools and Post 16 settings. Information about the Birmingham local authority approach can be found on the Autism Education Trust PPP website  

A guide to the use of the AET programme materials by local authorities, support services and schools  2016 

Pam has contributed to autism education resources and publications.She was involved in the adaptation of the AET school-based training to  Early Years and  is currently participating in the re-development of these materials with Autism Centre Educational Research (ACER) at Birmingham University     

Pam was part of the Erasmus Plus-funded Transform Autism Education project to research good autism education practices in the UK, Greece, and Italy in order to identify and promote positive outcomes for autistic individuals.   

Pam is a long standing member of the Autism Education Trust Programme Board , promoting its core values and resources at national conferences and events .  

Peter Watt

Peter Watt

Peter joined the National Autistic Society in 2021. 

He has previously worked as a Director at the NSPCC, ran a successful communications consultancy, was CEO at a charity supporting older people, was General Secretary of the Labour Party and a qualified General Nurse.

Peter is the Father of six children, two of whom are autistic and is a fan of (watching) all sports – particularly Liverpool FC and all things cricket.

Terms of reference

Read the full Terms of reference for the AET Programme Board here.

AET Awards logos, Private Education Awards: Best Autism Education Programme 2022, Education and Training Awards: Best Autism Education Programme UK 2021, Private Education Awards: Best Autism Education Programme 2021, Private Education and development awards: Best Autism Education Training Company 2019