Marchbank Free School

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About Marchbank Free School

Name Marchbank Free School
Ofsted Inspections
Chief Executive Mrs Caroline Green
Address Mowden Hall, Barnes Road, Darlington, DL3 9BL
Phone Number 01325254670
Phase Academy (special)
Type Free schools special
Age Range 5-11
Religious Character Does not apply
Gender Mixed
Number of Pupils 48
Local Authority Darlington
Highlights from Latest Inspection

What is it like to attend this school?

Pupils thrive at Marchbank Free School. Staff know each individual pupil well and develop strong professional relationships with them.

As soon as they start at the school, pupils receive close attention, nurture and care. The nurturing environment helps pupils to feel safe and ready to learn once again.

Establishing routines and boundaries is important here.

Adults are consistent in their expectations of pupils' behaviour and achievement. Pupils understand the school systems that contribute to purposeful learning in the classrooms. At times, some pupils do struggle with managing their emotions.

Adults are adept at spotting the signs when this occurs ...and provide skilful intervention. This helps pupils to calm and rejoin their class and their learning quickly.

Pupils enjoy valuable experiences that broaden their horizons beyond the classroom.

They are carefully planned to help pupils develop self-esteem and prepare for later life. They play a significant part in rebuilding confidence through enjoying success. Opportunities include learning new skills such as those of forest school, cooking, gardening and sports skills, or developing musical talents.

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

Leaders and their staff team have a relentless ambition for all pupils to achieve success. From difficult starts, pupils receive exemplary levels of support for their development around all aspects of their self-worth, presentation and achievements. The sharp focus on pupils' needs drives a well-organised curriculum from which all pupils benefit.

The curriculum makes clear all the important things pupils need to know. Leaders have carefully considered key knowledge and skills and the sequence, which effectively builds pupils' learning over time. Staff collect valuable information that they use methodically to improve curriculum plans across the subject areas.

Manageable and achievable targets are set for pupils' personal and academic success. This means that learning is tightly focused on pupils' starting points and is well matched to pupils' individual needs. In most subjects, the curriculum is implemented well.

However, in a minority of subjects, curriculum implementation is less effective. On occasion, gaps in pupils' learning and mistakes are not swiftly identified and addressed. This hampers pupils' progress.

A highly effective programme of professional development ensures all adults are well trained in working to support pupils with special educational needs. Leaders constantly review this. High-quality training makes an effective contribution to improving the practice of all staff.

This leads to pupils quickly developing the resilience and skills they will need in their future, more independent lives.

The school recognises it is important for pupils to be able to read. Pupils build their knowledge of sounds in a systematic way.

Skilful teaching supports pupils' reading confidence and fluency. Reading activities for building comprehension are well planned. Pupils strengthen their range of vocabulary.

For example, in science and design technology, pupils use accurate vocabulary to describe the properties of materials and their potential uses in designing new products. Pupils have opportunities to read high-quality texts. There are inviting areas around school, which promote reading at times outside of the daily reading lessons.

This encourages a love of reading.

Pupils' holistic needs are well understood. A therapeutic approach supports the building of trusting relationships between pupils, families and adults in school.

Staff use clear routines and expectations to engage pupils in their learning. Quiet spaces and reflection rooms provide pupils with opportunities to calm when they do become dysregulated. These times are well managed.

Pupils reflect this situation through being more positive about themselves and their achievements.

The school's approach to developing pupils' personal development is impressive. A wide range of activities provides opportunities to promote talents and interests.

Building life skills is at the core of the school's programme. It is skilfully crafted so that it meets every pupil's needs. Pupils learn about different jobs and develop links with professionals who work in the wider community.

Pupils are exceptionally well prepared for their next steps beyond this school.

The school's leadership, including the trust, has been highly effective in transforming this school. All leaders have a deep knowledge of the school's strengths and areas where they continue to develop.

The trust uses this to provide appropriate levels of challenge and support. A strong team ethic ensures staff are well supported.


The arrangements for safeguarding are effective.

What does the school need to do to improve?

(Information for the school and appropriate authority)

• In a minority of subjects, the implementation of the curriculum is inconsistent. Sometimes, teachers do not identify or address misconceptions swiftly, leaving pupils with gaps in their learning. The school needs to ensure that all staff have the confidence, knowledge and skills they need to implement the curriculum with clarity and conviction in all subjects.

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