Abbey Court Foundation Special School

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About Abbey Court Foundation Special School

Name Abbey Court Foundation Special School
Ofsted Inspections
Headteacher Ms Vicky Aspin
Address Rede Court Road, Strood, Rochester, ME2 3SP
Phone Number 01634338220
Phase Special
Type Community special school
Age Range 3-19
Religious Character Does not apply
Gender Mixed
Number of Pupils 197
Local Authority Medway
Highlights from Latest Inspection


Abbey Court Foundation Special School continues to be an outstanding school.

What is it like to attend this school?

Abbey Court provides an inspirational physical and emotional environment in which pupils thrive and enjoy their education.

A safe, nurturing atmosphere is combined with a sense of ambition and determination that every pupil should benefit from a rich, broad learning experience – and they do.

Communication, personal development, and safety sit at the heart of the curriculum. Staff expertly use diverse communication methods and are persistent in finding an approach that works for everyone.

Pupils learn to communicate, starting with 'stop' and 'more', t...o make choices and to engage positively in their personalised curriculum.

Wherever needed, pupils receive effective support to manage their own emotions. Some pupils respond well to frequent small rewards, others to movement breaks or a change of environment.

Learning continues uninterrupted and pupils treat each other kindly.

Larkin Farm, the school's farm, provides a wealth of opportunities for pupils to extend their communication and independence skills as well as to learn first hand about science topics, such as 'water'. A range of farm animals frequently greet pupils at the start of the school day and visit at breaktimes.'

Tonto', the much-loved horse simulator, enables pupils to extend physical, social and linguistic skills within a familiar, supported environment.

What does the school do well and what does it need to do better?

Changes in leadership and major building works have not slowed the drive for continuous improvement. The curriculum on offer at Abbey Court School is exceptional.

Leaders have undertaken research and have considered the experiences of staff, pupils, and families. The collective school community's ambition for pupils is reflected in a curriculum that more than mirrors the breadth of a mainstream curriculum. The content of each subject has been considered, and planned, in the finest detail.

Consequently, the school offers a unique curriculum, that enables pupils to acquire new knowledge while respecting their ages and specific needs. For example, literature texts, for older pupils, include a Shakespeare play with adaptations to make this accessible.

The curriculum is implemented, as designed, with unique modifications for every pupil from the early years to sixth form.

Staff, including those at the early stages of their careers, are highly skilled. They benefit from frequent training and highly effective support. Staff seamlessly use augmentative and alternative communication devices, systems, and tools in all lessons.

For example, many pupils learn to use eye transfer boards to make a choice. Some learn to use eye gaze and computer assisted technologies, leading to more complex communication. Voice output aids are used by pupils from Reception onwards and other systems, such as objects of reference, signing, picture exchange, comment boards and communication books are used widely, as well as speech, to develop and extend pupils' communication skills.

A love of literature and a culture for reading are apparent throughout the school. Reading is taught daily, and pupils take books home to share with families. Pupils learn to identify letters and sounds in a systematic way and enjoy the routines of combining sounds to make a word.

Reading books are accurately matched to sounds that pupils know. Texts, for all year groups are carefully selected to support learning topics, such as 'The weather', as well as to ensure that pupils access literature of different styles and genres. Adults read aloud to pupils, individually or in groups, every day.

Pupils access the school and town libraries regularly. Signs and symbols used consistently throughout the school, contribute to the immersive environment of communication and literacy.

Pupils' highly specialist learning needs are refined into termly individual education plans.

These plans identify '3 important things to learn' and then set out the learning and support strategies required. Evidence of progress towards these individual targets is captured across the breadth of the curriculum and used to inform next steps. Staff are adept at 'minute by minute' assessment, swiftly adapting learning activities, or supporting behaviour, in response to pupils' engagement and progress.

Staff know pupils very well. They judge sensitively when to persist in seeking a particular response. Time is used well, and a positive air of learning and purpose pervades each classroom.

All pupils benefit from extensive, considered wider learning experiences. For example, a residential trip is worked towards over time, starting with younger pupils staying at school for tea and then a sleepover, eventually culminating in longer residential trips. Other experiences, such as a visit to the Royal Opera House, and participating in a community singing event, contribute strongly to social and cultural development.

The school farm offers diverse opportunities, including developing independence, taking responsibility and extensive work-related skills.

Staff enjoy working at Abbey Court. They feel respected and supported.

Staff know that leaders and governors consider the impact of any changes before they are introduced. For example, recent changes to annual review paperwork have reduced workload and have provided families with helpful information.

The school governing body holds a clear strategic role.

Governors provide effective challenge and support to school leaders and act as strong ambassadors for the school.Most parents who spoke with inspectors or who took part in Ofsted's Parent View survey, expressed highly positive views. Parents praised staff and the school facilities and commented on their child's happiness and progress.

In the words of one parent: 'Abbey Court is a fantastic school. They offer so much to the children….the sensory area, Tonto the horse simulator, the hydro pool and the farm are outstanding…….

all of the staff work as one collective team in meeting the school's vision and values all of the time.'


The arrangements for safeguarding are effective.

Safeguarding is integral to all that the school does.

A focus on safeguarding is ongoing, through training, updates, and staff briefings. Leaders and staff are alert to risks and raise concerns quickly, so that pupils and families receive support exactly when needed. When required, leaders work well with health professionals, social workers, and other agencies.

Safety runs visibly through the taught curriculum and pupils are given a strong voice in their own care and safeguarding. For example, pupils able to express a preference, select which adult provides their intimate care. Enabling pupils to communicate 'stop' is a shared school priority.


When we have judged a school to be outstanding, we will then normally go into the school about once every four years to confirm that the school remains outstanding. This is called an ungraded inspection and it is carried out under section 8 of the Education Act 2005. We do not give graded judgements on an ungraded inspection.

However, if we find evidence that a school would now receive a higher or lower grade, then the next inspection will be a graded inspection, which is carried out under section 5 of the Act. Usually this is within one to two years of the date of the ungraded inspection. If we have serious concerns about safeguarding, behaviour or the quality of education, we will deem the ungraded inspection a graded inspection immediately.

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