THE co-founder of a school for children with autism which has been gifted a bright new future has spoken passionately of the rollercoaster months which has seen her battle personal tragedy and almost lose the dream she'd helped to build.

It certainly has been 18 months of ups and downs for Zoe Thompson, who set up Bright Futures School in 2010 along with her late husband, Dixon, after they were unable to find anywhere suitable for their autistic son, Philip.

Last May the rug was pulled from underneath her and the school when the owners of the building which housed Bright Futures in Oldham Road, Grasscroft, announced they were putting the building up for sale.

Faced with the difficult task of finding new, suitable premises they were then dealt a further blow by Oldham Council over funding issues.

Things began to look very bleak for the school which has been hailed as revolutionary in its techniques of helping autistic children which have equally transformed their lives and those of their families.

All this was just months after mum-of-two Zoe lost her husband, Dixon, to stomach cancer in August 2017, making her even more determined to keep their beloved legacy alive.

Thankfully her prayers were answered by a knight in shining armour, Daniel Scott, operations director of Greenfield based cleaning products company Robert Scott and Sons.

After hearing of their plight he not only offered them some of their land off Friezland Lane, but also to build them a new school.

Oldham Council granted approval for the new Bright Futures School, which will cater for up to 15 pupils, last month.

Zoe says she, staff, pupils and parents are delighted they'll be able to continue to provide their much needed provision and were particularly heartened by the planning committee’s description of the project as "beautiful".

Reflecting on the challenges she has faced with the threat of closure of the school coming hard on the heels of Dixon’s death, she said: "It was a truly awful period in my life."

"Trying to deal with losing Dixon, supporting my two children through their bereavement and then coping with the uncertainty around the school’s future.

"The offer of a purpose built school from Robert Scott and Sons was like a dream coming true.

"We found temporary premises in Greenacres which will house us until the new school is built.

"I am very lucky that I have been so well supported by a wonderful and very dedicated staff team. I am particularly grateful for the tenacity and

determination of the school’s Head of Learning, Alison Hughes, who was just not going to let me, or the school, go under."

"Daniel rang me straight after he’d heard the news that planning permission had been granted and whilst I managed to hold it together

on the phone, I burst into tears straight afterwards.

"It’s a whole mix of emotions – I still can’t believe that Scott and Sons are doing this for us, it’s such a magnificent gesture.

"I’m overjoyed that our ‘forever home’ has got the green light and then all of that is tinged with sadness and poignancy that Dixon isn’t here to share it."

Zoe and son, Philip, now aged 19, are also celebrating another victory following a fight over his further education - and not just for him but other youngsters too.

After 'graduating' from Bright Futures Philip decided he didn't want to go to college but did want to continue his studies in maths, English and IT.

During his time at Bright Futures School he'd taken part in a ‘social communication’ programme aimed at working on some of the difficulties that resulted from his autism and his ADOS score - which shows the severity of the autism - had reduced from 19 out of 22, to 12 out of 22.

Desperate to continue to work on some of his autism difficulties in order to get himself work-ready he argued a local college couldn't cater for his needs, despite insistence from Oldham Council.

So they took his case to a Special Educational Needs Tribunal and in February found out they had won, making it the first time in the UK that a social communication programme has been recognised by an SEN tribunal as ‘educational provision’.

Philip now has a package in place of educational activities funded by an education ‘personal budget’ which Zoe manages and includes a

continuation of the social communication programme, which was deemed by the tribunal to be a crucial part of his educational


"Going through the tribunal process was extremely stressful," said Philip.

"I hope I never have to do anything like that again and I resent the local authority for putting me through it. However, now that social communication provision to work on core autism difficulties is ‘educational’, it is something that other parents could get in their children’s Education, Health and Care plans. That wasn’t possible before my case went to tribunal.

"I’m very glad to have been able to do something to help other people and that was a big factor in keeping me going through that very dark time. "The social communication provision has made a huge difference to me and is something that I would recommend to anyone else with autism."

For more information about Bright Futures School for children with autism go to