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Exeter Royal Academy for Deaf Education is a place of inspiration for the pupils who attend. Pupils have often had negative experiences of education and engagement in the world around them prior to attending. One pupil described the school as 'paradise'.
Others agree, saying that they are in a place where they can communicate, feel heard and feel visible. Pupils value the incredibly strong relationships with adults.
Leaders prioritise pupils' social, emotional and mental health needs.
Adults are aspirational role models, whether they are hearing or deaf members of staff. They encourage pupils towards independence and active participation in society. Staff are... well informed about what successful inclusion should be for a deaf young person.
Pupils are fully accepting of the diverse needs of their peers. They are encouraged to extend this to diversity and cultural awareness in a much wider sense.
Everyone has high expectations of behaviour.
Pupils respond exceptionally well to these. Pupils are highly respectful of the support that staff put in place when they experience challenge. Pupils trust adults and feel safe.
There is a culture of openness and sharing around concerns and worries. Pupils do not have any concerns about bullying.
What does the school do well and what does it need to do better?
Leaders and staff are highly ambitious for all pupils.
Leaders have made significant changes that have had a positive impact. These include a leadership restructure and appointments to the staff that have increased the balance of expertise and knowledge to meet the special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) that pupils have. This also supports the progression towards a bespoke and aspirational curriculum.
This curriculum development is building on the improvement work that has been ongoing over recent years.
The use of curriculum pathways and a focus on British Sign Language (BSL) and deaf studies mean pupils are in a place where they can learn with much greater success. This work is not yet fully established as a coherent and well-sequenced curriculum across all subject areas.
However, where leaders have focused their work, there is a clear impact on how well pupils learn.
BSL and deaf studies is the fundamental part of all pupils' learning. It enables them to fully access the rest of their education.
It is through BSL and deaf studies that pupils learn to communicate and become aware of themselves as learners and deaf individuals. Through a multilayered approach by skilled members of staff, pupils learn English as an additional language to BSL. The development of phonics (with the use of visual phonics by hand) gives pupils the skills they need to read and write in English.
This enables them to learn in other subjects because they can read, comprehend and record their learning in English, as well as use BSL.Pupils who need a focus on early communication get the precise support they need. Leaders use education, health and care (EHC) plans to inform individualised targets towards ambitious outcomes.
Joint working with the therapy team ensures that learning and achievements beyond the academic are well provided for. Leaders check this work to ensure it is of a high quality and meets the needs of the pupils. Leaders are proactive in their work to strengthen the provision for all pupils.
They make effective use of the information contained in EHC plans to inform future development and training needs. As a result, staff are enhancing their knowledge and expertise to meet the increasingly complex needs of the pupils in the school and college.
Leaders have designed areas in school to support a total communication way of learning and interacting.
Pupils make use of these areas to enjoy books, socialise and support themselves and each other to stay regulated. This epitomises the nurture, tolerance and respect that pupils, some of whom can demonstrate some high-risk behaviour, have for each other and the staff.
Many of the students in the college start post-16.
They follow one of three pathways to support their preparation for adulthood. Leaders build flexibility into the pathways. This makes sure that there is ambition for students' outcomes as they prepare for their next steps.
Students take part in work experience and employer encounters with a network of accessible employers established by leaders.
The governors and trustees share the ambition of school leaders. They know the strengths of the school and know where aspects need to develop further.
Staff feel very well supported. They say that leaders are respectful of workload in this period of change. Staff describe a shared commitment and determination in helping pupils achieve the best possible outcomes.
The arrangements for safeguarding are effective.
All staff know and understand the procedures for keeping pupils safe. Systems for recording and reporting concerns are robust.
Leaders check that records of concerns are accurate and reported in a timely manner. They check that actions make the required impact, and challenge this where appropriate. The welfare team works with external agencies to provide the right support for pupils and their families.
Safer recruitment processes are well established. Appropriate checks are made on the suitability of staff.
Pupils learn about keeping themselves safe and being risk aware.
Leaders prioritise aspects of this to address the increased vulnerabilities, such as relationship education and behaviour when online.
What does the school need to do to improve?
(Information for the school and appropriate authority)
• Although leaders have now ensured a balance between subject expertise and SEND knowledge in the development of the curriculum, there is still work to be done to embed this to help pupils learn and remember more over time. Leaders need to ensure that the work started in core subject areas, such as English and mathematics, continues to strengthen and that the wider curriculum is fully established in line with this.
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