Acorn School

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About Acorn School

Name Acorn School
Ofsted Inspections
Headteacher Ms Zoey Shelley
Address Seckington Cross, Winkleigh, EX19 8EY
Phone Number 03301358201
Phase Independent (special)
Type Other independent special school
Age Range 8-16
Religious Character None
Gender Mixed
Number of Pupils 32 (90.6% boys 9.4% girls)
Local Authority Devon

What is it like to attend this school?

The staff at Acorn are caring. They know every pupil well. As a result, staff ensure that the full range of pupils’ social, emotional and mental health needs are well met.

This is a happy school. Staff and pupils share much humour. They work and relax together in a safe and orderly environment. Leaders have high expectations of every pupil. Staff skilfully help pupils to settle and find their feet. As pupils gain confidence, they make more contributions to daily events or in helping each other. For example, older pupils provide ‘buddy’ support to younger pupils. Pupils told us that they like this school because they feel understood and appreciated ‘for who they are’.

Pupils know the school’s rules. They are highly motivated to gain rewards. Pupils try hard and want to do well. Staff know when pupils are getting anxious. As a result, they quickly adapt what they are doing to help restore calm and reduce stress. Pupils say that there is no bullying. Staff are deployed well to work with the pupils. Leaders complete detailed risk assessments to keep pupils safe.

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

Following the relocation of the school, leaders have continued to have high expectations. The school’s owners want every pupil to have a rewarding education. This school offers a vital chance for pupils to be successful. Staff fully understand this. They are uncompromising in their work with pupils, but, all the while, are patient and understanding in how they support pupils.

Leaders have a clear programme setting out what they want pupils to know in each subject. Leaders have based this on the national curriculum. This is ambitious because most pupils are working below what is expected of them. However, teachers are thorough in checking what pupils know and adapt lessons so that pupils can catch up. This helps pupils to achieve well in most subjects, including pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities. However, in mathematics, teachers do not plan well enough the small steps in learning that will help some pupils.

Teachers encourage pupils to read throughout the day. Pupils learn about different books, styles and authors. For example, primary pupils use their reading skills to learn about human digestion. Other pupils learn about classic literature, including, ‘The Wind in the Willows’. Teachers select reading books well to stimulate pupils’ interest. These books are linked well to other subjects, for example learning about crime and punishment in Tudor England while reading Shakespeare. Pupils like to express their thoughts and feelings about what they have read. The range of reading helps pupils to learn well in many subjects. Well-chosen texts bring learning to life. These enable pupils to find out more and be enthusiastic learners. However, teachers are not consistent in their approach to checking how well pupils are doing in reading. This holds some pupils back, as they do not have a reading book matched to their ability, particularly those who are starting to be able to read on their own. Staff provide effective support for pupils who still need some help to catch up with phonics. Consequently, most pupils are confident in their phonic knowledge.

Teachers plan a curriculum that makes learning fun. They use a variety of resources, including the outdoors, to grab the pupils’ attention. Pupils like the wider opportunities that the school offers. These include: swimming, cinema and fishing. These opportunities are based upon each individual pupil’s interests. As a result, pupils use a range of knowledge and skills in different situations that help prepare them for the next steps they take in education and life.

Leaders ensure that the school is fully compliant with the Independent School Standards. This includes ensuring that the school meets schedule 10 of the Equality Act 2010.

Pupils know how to treat each other well. They have a keen understanding of difference and diversity. Leaders are not afraid of tackling difficult issues head on. For example, following an incident in the school, pupils studied Rosa Parks. They learned about the civil rights movement. Pupils speak with great understanding of this issue. They also learn about other religions and cultures through their religious education and personal, social and health education (PSHE) lessons. This helps them to be prepared for life in modern Britain.


The arrangements for safeguarding are effective.

Leaders ensure that staff are well trained to work with pupils. Leaders act swiftly to keep pupils safe and work closely with the full range of external partners. Staff are knowledgeable about safeguarding matters, including child protection.

Leaders promote the school’s therapeutic curriculum well. This gives pupils access to a wide range of support and services through the proprietor (Phoenix Childcare Limited). Pupils’ mental health needs are regularly reviewed in line with their education, health and care plans. This helps to keep the pupils safe and well.

What does the school need to do to improve?

(Information for the school and proprietor)

The school does not have a consistent approach to assessing pupils in reading. As a result, teachers are not ensuring that all pupils have books that match their reading ability. This interferes with how well a few pupils are learning to read, particularly those who are just becoming independent readers. Leaders need to ensure that teachers’ ongoing assessments are timely and accurate to help pupils gain greater confidence and fluency in reading. . Teachers are not consistently identifying the precise next steps to help pupils in mathematics. As a result, a few pupils are not gaining enough knowledge to be confident mathematicians, particularly in their understanding of number. Leaders need to ensure that teachers identify the right building blocks through the curriculum for all pupils to achieve well.