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Acorn Park School in Banham receives good rating from Ofsted



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A specialist school for children with autism has reversed its fortunes by receiving a good rating from Ofsted – two years after inspectors branded it as inadequate.

Acorn Park School in Banham – an independent specialist school catering for pupils aged five to 19 with autism and special needs – picked up the revised rating following an inspection between March 2 and 8.

The report said: “Pupils of all ages feel happy, supported and well cared for.

Staff and pupils at Acorn Park School, in Banham. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography 2022.
Staff and pupils at Acorn Park School, in Banham. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography 2022.

“Learning in small classes enables pupils to get to know their teachers well alongside personalised plans that enable them to re-engage in learning and enjoy school life.”

Philippa Whipp, head of school, who was appointed 18 months ago to help drive the change, shared her joy at receiving the report.

She said: “There is no greater pride than knowing our pupils feel that they can be themselves. We strive to provide a safe and inclusive environment at Acorn Park and having that recognised by this report is testament to the ethos and values we have developed over the last year and a half.

“We aim to provide every opportunity to ensure that each young person leaves the school with the highest level of independence they can achieve, ready to contribute to the world.

“Everyone here has been resolute about providing the best possible experience of schooling for our pupils and this was celebrated by the inspectors.

“We are one team – from pupils and parents to staff and governors – and this is what makes us proud to be Acorn Park.’

The inspectors commended the school’s leaders for making “significant improvements to the quality of education, pupils’ behaviour and the school’s relationships with parents” and also developing “an ambitious curriculum for pupils from key stage one to key stage five”.

They noted that “leaders have built good relationships with families, parents praise the high quality of pastoral care and support that staff provide and value the therapeutic support provided”.

They also commented that “pupils’ lives are enriched by the curriculum and a wide range of extra activities and special events”, and that they “thrive personally and socially through outdoor learning and caring for animals on the school farm”.

The sixth form was also applauded for the provision of “personalised programmes to meet students’ complex needs” that enabled them to become more independent.

Welcoming the report, Peter Marshall, head of service, said: “I am immensely proud of this inspection report, not just because it celebrates so strongly the many fantastic ways that our school now supports its pupils and their families, but because it rightly celebrates the incredible team effort from our staff, our leaders, and our families over the last 18 months.

“Philippa and her amazing team have worked tirelessly to make the necessary changes and develop our excellent provision. I’m humbled that so many of our families spoke so positively of the school. They rightly highlighted our excellent clinical and pastoral teams.

“This report is a tremendous reflection on all that our community has sought to achieve for this very special school, but, more importantly, it celebrates the great work of the people that matter most – our fantastic children and young people.”



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