Monday, 08 August 2022

Special school retains Ofsted rating

BISHOPSWOOD School has been rated “good” by the education watchdog.

BISHOPSWOOD School has been rated “good” by the education watchdog.

The Sonning Common special school achieved the rating in all four areas of examination, including achievement of pupils, quality of teaching, behaviour and safety of pupils and leadership and management.

It retained the rating it was given three years ago as inspectors noted the “excellent” progress made in the early years foundation stage, which is based at Valley Road School nursery in Henley.

Earlier this year, Oxfordshire County Council presented an award to the school’s integrated nursery for its achievements in this age group. The school is also co-located on two other sites, Sonning Common Primary School and Chiltern Edge School.

Inspectors, who visited the three sites in September, praised the care provided for pupils and said they benefited from a wide range of learning experiences, including trips into the community.

Their report said: “All pupils, including those with additional special educational needs, achieve well. Progress in communication, language and literacy, including matching letters and sounds, is good. Good teaching means that most pupils achieve well in their activities. Learning often moves at a good pace and communication aids are used well to give pupils a voice and offer them choices.”

Inspectors said parents were “rightly pleased” with the school and believed headteacher Stephen Passey, who joined in 2011, had a “clear vision” and “strong focus on improving the performance of staff through high-quality training”.

The inspectors said they didn’t award the school an “outstanding” rating as they believed not enough teaching was at that level.

They said that occasionally staff did not make the best use of communication aids or assessment information about pupils’ achievements to show how well different groups were doing. Mr Passey said he was “delighted” with the report and declared his intention to improve teaching standards.

“We thought it gave an accurate picture of where the school is,” he said. “It gives us clear direction for future development as we continuously seek to improve our provision. It’s challenging to achieve a good judgement in all four areas. The fact that there is very short notice of these inspections means that the inspectors over the two days see what the school is like on a day-to-day day basis.”

Meanwhile, Chris Wormald, permanent secretary at the Department of Education, has visited the three sites.

He said: “Bishopswood Special School demonstrates the benefits of its innovative provision and its commitment to excellent staff and teaching.

“They should be very proud of the impact the school is having on its students and I wish them every success for the future.”

Mr Passey said: “As far as we know, we’re the only school in England which is co-located on three sites. Mr Wormald had never seen this. He was clearly very impressed with the innovative work we’re doing and the quality of the provision.”

BISHOPSWOOD’S integrated nursery received the Excellence in Oxfordshire Award for its early years provision at a ceremony in Witney in March.

Carol Parrey, who leads the nursery department, said it was unusual in encouraging mainstream children to mix with those with learning difficulties every day.

There are currently 26 children in the nursery at Valley Road School in Henley, including eight from Bishopswood. They are in the same classes and are mixed for activities such as concerts and visits.

Ms Parrey said: “We provide activities that are inclusive for all the children and then it’s defined to the range of children’s abilities.

“One strength is it makes more people part of the local community. The children that are educated alongside those with special needs go on through their life having had positive experiences and therefore deeper understanding. Some of the mainstream children’s parents have chosen this provision because they recognise the value it offers.”

Bishopswood headteacher Stephen Passey said the co-location of the school helped to create “one community” rather than a special needs community.

“It really highlights the fact that society is complex and embraces our whole range of needs,” he said.

“That’s something the young children here really just accept from day one.”

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