Snowfields Academy

Due to open September 2020 in Bearsted, Snowfields Academy will be a brand new purpose-built special school designed to accommodate 140 students between the ages of 11 and 18 whose primary need is ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). Snowfields Academy will be the newest school to be built within Leigh Academies Trust (LAT); a selection of primary, secondary and special schools across Kent, Medway and South East London.

All students at Snowfields Academy will have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). At Snowfields, class sizes will be small so as to enable learners to focus and to receive good levels of personalised support in the classroom. A highly-supportive pastoral structure will be central to the academy, placing the needs of each student first, and a commitment to instilling British values and delivering a strong Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural (SMSC) education will be evident within the curriculum. Staff at Snowfields Academy will be trained to support those with both mental health difficulties and other behavioural needs, and all students and their families will have access to the support they need, including contact with trained Emotional Literacy Support Assistants (ELSA). An emphasis will be placed on preparing learners for their later lives and supporting them in identifying and achieving their aspirations, and as a result students will have the option of making choices from a blended curriculum which combines both vocational and academic subjects. Regardless of their pathway choice, every student experience will be tailored to suit the needs and ambitions of each individual learner.

A detailed overview is given below of the proposed structure, support, and curriculum content of Snowfields Academy; please note that this may be subject to change.

Please scroll down to view the proposed academy building plans.

Principal’s Welcome

As Principal Designate I would like to thank you for your interest in Snowfields Academy; our soon-to-be purpose built secondary school for around 140 pupils aged 11 to 18 years with a primary need of Autism Spectrum Disorder, ASD. Having trained for and taught young people with Learning Difficulties and ASD for many years, I am proud and honoured to now have the opportunity to lead an exceptional specialist ASD provision.

Snowfields Academy will offer the very best personalised approaches to delivering an inspiring curriculum offering a blend of vocational and academic study and qualifications, set in a context of exceptional nurture and wellbeing. Class sizes will be small and our students will be led by highly trained staff who will support, value and challenge.

The building has been designed with support from highly experienced ASD specialist education and therapy staff to deliver an outstanding setting which both inspires and supports young people’s complex needs. Careful consideration has been given to all aspects of the design to promote wellbeing and achievement.

Our curriculum will reflect the range of pupil needs, and so will offer both academic and vocational pathways. Specialisms in horticulture and catering have led to the development of a purpose-built vocational teaching kitchen with servery and outdoor horticulture area, which will enable young people to gain real-life experiences and qualifications leading to the very best employment opportunities. We will forge partnerships with local businesses to offer work experience and supported internships to facilitate this, and give every pupil the skills needed to confidently transition from school onto their next steps.

Snowfields Academy will lead the way offering support for young people’s wellbeing, with a team of highly trained specialists who will work collaboratively with families and young people to meet a wide range of complex needs.

I welcome your interest in Snowfields Academy, whether you are a student, parent, carer or other family member or a professional or member of the local community. Please do contact me if you would like any further information or would like to register your interest.  

Dee Pickerill

Principal Designate Snowfields Academy

Broad and balanced curriculum

A broad and balanced curriculum will be delivered across 24 hours per week, encompassing both core academic and additional vocational subjects including hospitality, horticulture, retail and office skills.  This will be complemented by opportunities for learners to experience the world of work via work experience and supported internships. In addition to its relationships with employers in the immediate vicinity, Snowfields Academy will have access to the vast network of employer relationships already secured by the ‘Working with Business’ team within Leigh Academies Trust, offering engagement opportunities including workplace visits and career talks.

Furthermore, focus events will enable students to experience a range of curricular disciplines, and participation in academy-wide days dedicated to areas such as arts, sports, STEM, languages, religious and cultural festivals, wellbeing and careers will provide opportunities for extended learning on a regular basis.

Personalised learning at Snowfields Academy provides the scope for curriculum content to be adapted to suit the aptitude of every learner; it is anticipated that some students will present as gifted and talented, and as such teaching staff will be able to offer tasks to stretch and challenge the most able in any subject.

Key Stages

At Key Stage 3 (KS3), students will study the full range of National Curriculum subjects; maths, English, science, geography, history, technology, art, music, Modern Foreign Languages (MFL), Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education/citizenship/Religious Education (RE), and Physical Education (PE). Students will be supported to access their learning in a way that is relevant to their personalised needs.

Moving on to Key Stage 4 (KS4) students will continue to study English, maths, science, PE and PSHE/citizenship/RE spread across 16 hours per week, but will also have the opportunity to choose the most appropriate pathway for themselves. Students may choose a maximum of either 8 hours per week of vocational subjects, or the equivalent 8 hours of learning split between both vocational and academic subjects. Teaching/support staff at the academy will work collaboratively with students and caregivers to support every learner in identifying and meeting aspirations for their next steps. As part of LAT, higher ability or gifted and talented students of Snowfields Academy be able to access LAT16 – LAT’s post-16 provision offering a range of vocational and academic courses across its secondary academies.

As they transition from KS4 to KS5, those who choose to remain at Snowfields Academy will be given the opportunity to select a personalised vocational pathway. At Key Stage 5, English and maths will remain mandatory. At this stage learners will study travel training/independence, personal finance, and PE/leisure activity. 10 hours per week will also be allocated to the vocational pathway selected by each learner; either catering/hospitality, horticulture/land-based studies, or retail/office skills. In addition to those, students will be able to study either an arts or an ICT award depending on their interests and aptitude.

The School Day

The structure of every learner’s school day will be designed to maximise learning as well as to provide opportunities to develop social skills. The school day will begin at 9.30 am and conclude at 4 pm. There will be a 15 minute morning break and 45 minutes for lunch. This will allow for five hours’ of learning time on a daily basis, every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. On Wednesdays, students will go home at 2.00pm so as to provide time for high-quality ongoing training and continuing professional development (CPD) to be delivered to all staff. This is a common and highly successful feature of other LAT academies which facilitates strong peer-to-peer working across both the mainstream and special academies within LAT. Evidence over several years has demonstrated that this collaboration greatly enhances teaching and leadership skills, as well as assisting in the recruitment and retention of staff, thus promoting and enhancing student outcomes.

Student Wellbeing

At Snowfields Academy we understand the complex needs of those who present with ASD, and that our learners may need to access support relating to their mental health and wellbeing. We realise that difficulties with anxiety and depression can be as debilitating as the core social and communication difficulties that some of our learners may struggle with, and as a result will collaborate with LAT Educational Psychologists, CAMHS and other expert professionals to support every student. Training in the management and support of those with mental health difficulties will be provided to all staff at Snowfields, and students and their families will be able to access additional support in the form of Emotional Literacy Support Assistants (ELSA), who will be available onsite at all times.

Specialist Support

Snowfields Academy will have a range of support staff on hand to help learners with varying needs, and so a team of specialists will be available within the academy; this will include:

  • An EHCP/Medical Needs specialist, who will be available to ensure that Snowfields Academy is meeting all requirements relating to the EHCP of every learner, and that these are delivered effectively. This member of staff will also be the key link between Snowfields Academy and parents/carers, so as to ensure that there is a sufficient and accurate representation at every review that takes place.
  • A team of Therapists to reduce any barriers to learning by helping to meet the holistic needs of our learners. This team will work closely with LAT’s Educational Psychologists and Education Welfare Officers, and will liaise with any other specialist provision that may be provided via Kent County Council (KCC) or the local Primary Care Trust (PCT).
  • An experienced sensory-trained Occupational Therapist, who will be available to help develop individual programmes, working with class teams and learners to assess and write new programmes that will help to lower any barriers to learning for students with sensory needs
  • A Speech and Language Therapist (SALT) will be appointed to lead therapy across the academy, with support from another SALT as the school grows who will work directly with class teams to support programme delivery, working with individuals and small groups to assess and write programmes and deliver targeted speech and language therapy. Communication has been identified as a key area of need across the academy, and as such, the SALTs will lead on the delivery of a total-communication approach which will include alternative and augmentative communication, with low- and high-tech approaches such as signing, symbols, PECS (picture-exchange communication) and voice-output communication aids (VOCAs). The SALTs will work within multi-disciplinary teams, including family representatives, and will lead training for staff and families to help to lower this crucial barrier to learning.
  • LATs Educational Psychologists work across all academies within LAT. Snowfields Academy will be part of a fortnightly EP forum, at which point any significant concerns relating to mental health and wellbeing, lack of progress or significant behavioural issues will be addressed. EPs will work closely with the behaviour lead at Snowfields (a member of the Senior Leadership Team, SLT) to further reduce barriers to learning. They will also work directly with staff and students, and will form part of the multi-disciplinary team which will include the families of Snowfields Academy students.

Location and Building Plans

Initial plans for Snowfields Academy are provided here but may be subject to change at this stage. The academy will be located on the site indicated below, on Bearsted Road.


Expressions of Interest

If you would be interested in sending your child to Snowfields Academy, please express your interest in doing so by sending an email to

If you are an ASD teaching or support specialist, or would be interested in securing another role within Snowfields Academy, please email our Recruitment and Talent team at Leigh Academies Trust:

General Enquiries

If you have any queries relating to Snowfields Academy, please email