Colnbrook School in Hertfordshire achieves national award for the fourth time.
An Outstanding School
Colnbrook School is a specialist provision in Hertfordshire which caters for pupils with Learning Difficulties, Autism Spectrum Disorders and Speech and Language Difficulties, a detailed description of the context of the school is included in the comprehensive Self Evaluation Report (SER) submitted to IQM as part of the assessment. I understand that this is the fourth IQM assessment of the school although, there have been relatively recent changes in the senior leadership team following the appointment of the current headteacher in 2015, the previous head having been in post for 20+ years. The most recent Ofsted short inspection of the school (April 2017) confirms that the school continues to be outstanding with particular reference to:-
1. Continued high quality assessment of children’s needs.
2. Careful and considered changes to management and governance to further enhance the already outstanding qualities.
3. Embedding the school ethos focusing on communication, consistency and sensitivity in managing challenging individual needs.
4. Safety of pupils.
The inspection reported only two “next step” areas of development:-
1. Processes for evaluating the impact of the use of the pupil premium funding specifically showing how well it is enabling pupils to overcome the barriers they face to their learning and personal development.
2. The new system for assessing pupils’ progress is implemented and opportunities are provided for teachers and learning support assistants to discuss pupils’ learning regularly and so ensure that pupils are achieving as much as they can. (Ofsted 2017)
I was able to observe during my visit, and through my discussions with key staff members, that both of the above points are being addressed and effectively developed.
Sources of Evidence
My visit to the school included a tour of the whole site and meetings with a range of members of the teaching and support staff, therapists and parents. I was also able to have my lunch with pupils in the dining hall.
Meetings were held with:-
• Head teacher.
• Parent representatives.
• Speech and Language Therapist.
• Deputy Head Teacher (PECS Lead).
• Learning Support Assistants.
• Assistant Head Teacher.
• Teacher with responsibility for Outreach.
• Teachers, including 1 NQT.
I also attended the morning staff briefing which takes place daily and updates all staff on events for the day, any concerns re pupils etc.
Children are Happy, Sociable and Safe
The school site comprises of the original school building which is now quite dated and is in need of some refurbishment to the main fabric i.e. window frames, heating systems etc. The staff however have utilised the teaching and learning spaces really well. There is a welcoming feel to the building and without exception, children are happy, sociable and safe. I was present at the arrival of the children first thing in the morning. Mini buses arrived on time with most children being transported in from across the local area, some also being escorted by mums and dads from nearby houses. The mini-bus escorts have excellent relationships with the children and the “meet and greet” session is a very positive start to the school day. The school also has some modular buildings on site which have been specifically designed and equipped to provide safe and adaptable teaching areas to meet the specific needs of youngsters in the school (ASD). Outside areas are well equipped and consist of play areas, communal, seating, climbing frames. Break and lunch times provide opportunities for staff to not only supervise but also join in/lead play activities.
An Outreach Service to Mainstream Schools
The school also provides an Outreach Service to mainstream schools in the county, who as part of their service level agreements, access the service for a wide variety of advice, training and support, (classroom observation, CPD, feedback and standalone sessions run on site at Colnbrook). There is a detailed explanation of the Outreach service on the school website, together with contact details and a referral form. The caseload of the outreach service is tracked by the Local Authority.
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the school and to be given the opportunity to meet the dedicated staff, the happy and successful children and their very satisfied parents.
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