The Springfields Academy

Reach South Academy Trust

Our central mission is for Reach South pupils to aspire to achieve beyond the expectations that others place on them.

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About us

About Us

Are you looking to develop effective autism practice? Would you like to learn from a multi-disciplinary team of educators, therapists, outreach staff and more? 

We can help! Here at the Springfields Academy, autism is our passion and we aim to understand, enable and empower autistic learners every day. We provide life-transforming education for autistic young people aged 5-19. We are delighted to have received external accreditation for our work from Ofsted (rated Good, March 2022) and the National Autistic Society (Advanced Accreditation awarded June 2022).

Our desire to share and celebrate good autism practice has led to the creation of Springfields Autism Support. We aim to support 'The National Strategy for Autistic Children, Young People and Adults: 2021 to 2026' through our work by helping schools and other organisations understand autism. Therefore, if you're looking for strategies to help you make reasonable adjustments, need insight into sensory needs or structured teaching approaches then we can help. Likewise, we understand that every autistic individual is different- we therefore can create a bespoke package of support that's right for you, your learners and your school.

We’re always keen to work with members of the autistic community and value their input, insight and advice. Please feel free to contact us if you’d like to support our training team.

You can meet key members of our SAS support team below and view our School-to-School Support Brochure. All training enquiries begin with a free, 30-minute virtual consultation. 

For all enquiries regarding training and development please email:

Nicola Brooks

Lead for Springfields Autism Support, Staff Development and Partnerships. 

Nicola is likely to be your first point of contact with the Springfields Autism Support Team. Nicola will respond to your enquiry, matching you with the right team member to meet your needs. Nicola oversees the many hubs, networks and partnerships that the academy is involved in and is a co-founder of A-Fest, A-Fest Online and A-Journal. Nicola has extensive experience of mainstream and specialist settings and has been teaching for over 15 years.

Mike Thomas

Headteacher, School Improvement Partner and Autism Advisor. 

Mike has significant experience of both classroom teaching and leadership positions across mainstream and specialist settings. With an unrelenting focus to look at teaching through the eyes of the autistic learner, Mike’s unique empathetic and problem-solving approach is a skills-set sought by others. Mike is studying for a MA in Autism through Sheffield Hallam University and is an experienced autism trainer. Mike is also able to offer guidance and support around safeguarding. Mike is a practising Ofsted inspector and is available for School Improvement work.

Nicola Whitcombe

Deputy Headteacher, School Improvement Partner and Autism Advisor.

Nicola Whitcombe is a relentlessly child-focused practitioner with significant experience of mainstream and specialist settings. Nicola has held a number of senior leadership positions including the role of SENCo and Resource Base Lead. Nicola holds a range of postgraduate qualifications in autism and SEND; she has extensive experience of school to school support and is an experienced trainer, offering support on the theories of autism, quality first teaching, the role of a SENCo and more. Nicola has recently completed her NPQH. Nicola facilitates on the NA Senco with Best Practice Network.

Connie Knight

SENCo and Autism Advisor. 

Connie is a multi-skilled practitioner with experience of both mainstream and specialist settings. Connie oversees the academy's approach to Communication and Interaction. Connie has completed the NA SENCo and is currently studying for a MA. Connie's dissertation project explores how Autistic Learners can be supported at break and lunch times. Connie leads a team of talented Learning Support and Higher Learning Support Assistants and can advise on the effective deployment of additional adults. Connie also oversees our 3 Deputy SENCos. Connie facilitates on the NA Senco with Best Practice Network.

Liz Burns

Head of Therapy, Occupational Therapist and Designated Safeguarding Lead.

Liz is an experienced Occupational Therapist who is committed to supporting young people to live safe, independent lives. Liz is able to advise on strategies to meet pupils’ sensory needs as well as environmental adaptations to enable learners. Liz brings a unique perspective on how to support learners in the classroom. Liz is able to support schools with environmental audits and sensory needs.

Claire Ludlow

Communication and Interaction Lead and Autism Advisor

A specialist in learning through play and Early Years teaching, Claire is highly skilled in engaging and supporting young children into the school environment. Claire uses TEACCH and Bucket Time principles across her teaching and is able to advise others on the use of these practices. Claire is also the Attention Autism Champion for the academy. Claire is currently working towards the Certificate in Play Therapy.

Rebecca Lland

Speech and Language Therapist.

Rebecca holds a MSc in Language Pathology from Newcastle University and is a qualified Speech and Language Therapist. Rebecca holds additional qualifications in Makaton and is a specialist in autism, providing others with a deeper understanding of how to promote successful communication. Rebecca supports children of all ages with speech difficulties, language delays/disorders, communication difficulties, and stammering. Support can take the form of assessment and target setting, advice in class, advice to parents/carers/staff, working on targets in small groups, and working 1:1. Rebecca is an accredited Elklan trainer.


Nancy Gosling


Specific Needs Lead and Autism Advisor.

Nancy is an experienced teacher and trainer. Nancy trained through Teach First and is committed to inclusion, social justice and ensuring that all children are given the opportunity to fulfil their potential. Nancy is skilled at enabling children with complex or specific needs to exceed. Nancy has experience of multi-agency working, is a former Autism Education Trust accredited training and has a MSc in Psychology. Nancy is studying for the NA SENCO in September 2022.

Sam Cottrell

Assistant Headteacher and Autism Advisor.

Sam is an experienced teacher and leader, having worked in both mainstream and specialist settings. Sam has experience of building SEND provision from scratch, having been involved in establishing Springfields South. Sam is a child-centred practitioner who uses a multi-agency approach.


Lee Davidson

Assistant Headteacher and Autism Advisor.

 Lee Davidson is an ebullient and charismatic leader who is passionate about helping learners succeed. Lee ensures the right systems and processes are in place to enable learners to thrive. Lee leads a team of talented and diverse practitioners across a range of academic and vocational areas. Lee has completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Autism with Sheffield Hallam University. 

For more information contact:

sas booklet 22 23.pdf


sas support for mats 22 23.pdf