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|Name||Mackenzie Thorpe Centre|
|Mr Mark Ellison|
|Address||Beech Grove, South Bank, TS6 6SU|
|Type||Other independent special school|
|Number of Pupils||27 (70% boys 30% girls)|
|Local Authority||Redcar and Cleveland|
What is it like to attend this school?
Staff meet each pupil when they arrive at school and know just how each pupil likes to be greeted. This makes sure that the day starts calmly because pupils are reassured that today holds no surprises. Pupils feel valued and respected. Staff know them well and understand their needs exceptionally well. Comments from pupils such as, ‘I know it’s important to respect everyone as we are all different’ show pupils’ growing understanding of the world around them. Staff believe that this is key to developing pupils’ independence.
All staff want pupils to achieve as much as they can. ‘The sky is my only limit,’ exclaimed one pupil. Pupils recognise that staff are there when they need them. ‘Staff keep me calm and then I can learn more,’ commented one pupil. ‘My brain is like a sieve some days,’ said another pupil. ‘Staff prompt me and then I remember’.
Pupils nearly always behave well. When they do not, staff understand that this is because they are trying to communicate their feelings. When a situation is likely to upset a pupil, staff work with them to help them to stay calm and manage their feelings. Pupils told the inspectors there was very little bullying in and around school. School records confirm that few pupils are bullied.
What does the school do well and what does it need to do better?
Pupils who attend the school all have special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND). The majority have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). School leaders believe that this should not prevent pupils from achieving as much as possible during their time in school.
School leaders are very clear that preparing pupils to learn is the first step on their journey to success. So great are the needs of some pupils that they initially find it difficult to set foot in the building. When this happens, staff move lessons outside, whatever the weather. Gradually, pupils begin to trust staff and take the first steps to successful learning.
Pupils’ individual needs are a top priority for all staff. Timetables are carefully crafted for each pupil. This helps pupils to make as much progress as possible socially, emotionally and across the curriculum. Pupils learn well in most areas of the curriculum. The mathematics and English curriculums are well planned overall. Personal, social and health education (PSHE) includes relationships and sex education. This is delivered in an age-appropriate way to all pupils.
Science is less well planned and delivered. Work in pupils’ books shows that this subject is not as clearly sequenced in some areas of the school. This reduces the amount that some pupils learn in science. Many staff are new to the school. Some pupils are unable to write. Staff record work for pupils, but some lack the scientific vocabulary to describe the work pupils are doing. This leads to inaccurate recording.
Pupils often confidently read text. However, pupils’ comprehension of what they read is often less good. Few pupils develop a love of reading. This is often due to pupils’ lack of understanding of the meaning of the printed words. Regular trips to the library to select books of their choice helps pupils to improve their vocabulary and reading skills.
Staff start to assess pupils’ needs before they arrive in school. Staff make regular checks on pupils’ understanding, and use this to plan further learning.
Pupils nearly always behave well. Behaviour that disrupts learning does not often happen. Pupils feel that staff understand their needs and respect them. The principal does not believe in excluding pupils. Staff recognise that pupils’ difficult behaviour is a form of communication. Leaders support staff to try to work out what it is that is causing the pupil concern and to enable the pupil to overcome the issue.
The PSHE curriculum helps pupils to learn how to recognise inappropriate behaviour in others. They also learn the impact of their own behaviour on others. This includes age-appropriate discussions on issues including healthy relationships and sexual consent.
School leaders have a clear focus on pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development from the time they arrive in school. A very individual approach is taken to increase pupils’ feeling of inclusion in, for example, their local community. This often starts through travel training. Staff accompany pupils to their home area and help them to identify key features, such as the health centre. They then work on identifying bus routes to and from school and the shops, for instance. When pupils are confident with bus travel, the aim is to take pupils on longer train journeys to Newcastle. These slow and carefully designed steps are part of a carefully thought-out plan to prepare pupils for further education or the world of work.
Currently, local authorities offer pupils independent careers education. School leaders are planning to increase the independent guidance for pupils by using an independent careers adviser.
The managing director of education provides focused support and challenge to the school’s leaders. Through regular visits, she ensures that the independent school standards are all met.
Leaders check on the impact of their work carefully. They identify strengths and weaknesses and set effective targets for improvement. Staff say that they appreciate the support given to them by leaders. Staff also say that they are offered a range of continuing professional development opportunities that enable them to do their job well and with confidence.
The arrangements for safeguarding are effective.
The school’s safeguarding policy is on the company’s website and makes reference to the latest government guidance, ‘Keeping children safe in education 2021’. The school has trained five designated safeguarding leads (DSL) for the school. This ensures that there is a DSL on site at all times.
The principal and deputy principal provide regular training for all staff. This ensures that staff are clear about what to do if a pupil is in need.
Safeguarding records show that the deputy principal identifies pupils in need of help and works closely with outside agencies to secure the relevant support. Records are securely kept in chronological order. Currently, each new event for pupils starts a new chronological entry. This leads to multiple separate entries for each pupil. The deputy principal agrees that although the system works currently, as the school grows, the system may become confusing.
Checks on the single central record are diligently kept, which ensures that staff are recruited safely.
What does the school need to do to improve?
? The school has not been open long and COVID-19 restrictions initially slowed the growth in pupil numbers. Many staff are still very new in post and require further training. Despite this, leaders have created a curriculum that is effectively planned and meets the needs of pupils. Most subjects are carefully sequenced. Discussions with pupils show that pupils learn and remember much of what has been taught in line with their level of need. However, in science the curriculum is not as effectively sequenced. End-points are not always clearly defined. The building blocks that support pupils’ learning are not as clearly identified as they are in other subject areas. Leaders are aware that the science curriculum is not as far developed as other subject areas. Staff also need further training so they can record pupils’ actions and learning using scientific vocabulary. When redeveloping the science curriculum, leaders need to ensure that the key knowledge they want pupils to remember is clearly identified. ? Although safeguarding records are kept in chronological order, entries for each pupil are not sufficiently well linked. A new chronology is started for each concern raised. This makes it difficult to spot patterns of behaviour or linked issues. Leaders should ensure that a system is in place that enables pupils’ records to be kept together without having to open a new file for each issue. This action would enable staff to spot pertinent evidence and linked incidents more quickly.
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