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Caring school is told it must improve

By Lucy Todman | North Shropshire | Ofsted reports | Published:

A Shropshire school which caters for pupils who have been out of the educational system for an extended period has been told it must improve by government inspectors.

On a recent visit, inspectors found the children who attend Access School, at Harmer Hill, near Wem, now enjoy coming to school and feel valued by their teachers. But they said some areas needed addressing, in particular the teaching of certain subjects.

The school, which has 30 children on the roll, teaches with a 'therapeutic' approach.

The inspectors said: "Leaders invest in making sure that the school meets pupils’ social, emotional and mental health needs. They do this well. At the heart of the curriculum is a therapeutic approach. This helps pupils to build their resilience and self-confidence.

"Pupils feel truly valued by the staff. For many who previously struggled at school, starting at Access is a fresh start. Here, they are welcomed, cared for and feel safe. Most pupils enjoy coming to school. Greeted with a warm smile each morning, pupils are encouraged to take part in a range of purposeful activities to help them learn.

"Most pupils, who in the past would have refused to join in, show interest in their work and participate willingly. This is because teachers know pupils very well and usually plan suitable work."

However, in their report, which was released this week, inspectors said: "Pupils understand that staff are determined to help them to manage their behaviour better, and on the whole, staff succeed in doing this. Leaders place huge investment in pupils’ personal development. Sometimes this is at the expense of ensuring that pupils make good academic progress."

Inspectors were critical of the scheme of work. They said: "Some curriculum subjects are better organised and planned than others. Pupils’ learning in mathematics is a strength. The well-designed mathematics curriculum is successfully delivered through effective teaching. In other subjects, leaders know where the curriculum does not build on what pupils already know. They are acting to put things right.

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"Leaders have not thought enough about how content in some subjects is sequenced when planning the curriculum. This is particularly the case for the transition between key stages 2 and 3. Some teachers in key stage 3 do not know what has been taught in key stage 2. Pupils in key stages 3 and 4 do not benefit from a comprehensive, well-planned curriculum for PE."

But the inspectors added: "Almost without exception, highly supportive relationships exist between pupils and staff. Staff are thoroughly tuned into each pupil’s emotional well-being. Some pupils can have extremely challenging behaviour as part of their special educational needs. But the learning of others is not usually affected by poor behaviour. This is because staff are good at spotting the triggers of unsettled behaviour. They intervene before it becomes problematic.

"Without question, the headteacher wants the best for all pupils. She never gives up on those who are struggling to cope with school. Staff share this same commitment to supporting vulnerable pupils."

Headteacher Sarah Earing said: "We are disappointed with the outcome of the inspection given the significant progress and development which has taken place at Access School since the last inspection, where we were then judged good in all areas of the previous inspection framework.

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"We are very pleased however, that the therapeutic approach and hard work of all the staff has been highlighted as a real strength, and the inspector was also particularly pleased with how positive young people were about the school.

"Whilst we acknowledge that there are some areas of the curriculum, we need to further develop we do not feel that this justifies a ‘Requires Improvement’ judgement.

"We feel that the new framework and inspection process has some areas where it needs to develop if it is going to be a true reflection of the provision. We are currently in the process of providing our concerns to Ofsted."

Lucy Todman

By Lucy Todman
@shroptod

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star and Shrewsbury Chronicle based in Shrewsbury.

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