STAFF and pupils at a North East Autism Society school are proving to be a real class act.

For an Ofsted report published this week rated the North East Centre for Autism (Aycliffe School) as ‘good’ across every area of school activity – with only minor adjustments required to reach outstanding.

But the glowing report comes as no surprise to mum Lisa Potts, whose 14-year-old son Jack Nicholson attends the school. She said:

They’re brilliant. I couldn’t speak more highly of everyone at the school. Jack’s been there for almost three years now and the difference in him is incredible. For the first time in his life he actually likes going to school and we’ve seen huge improvements in him. Not only is he doing better with school work but he’s eating better and is now able to take turns and work with other pupils; something I never dreamt would be possible. More than that though, he’s happy. I have a happier child because of the brilliant staff at the school.

Inspectors agree.

Praised for its ‘relentless focus’ on identifying and meeting pupils’ individual needs the school was also lauded for having teachers well trained to work with pupils with autism. This high level of skill, under the noted ‘expertise’ of Head Teacher Nicola Brown has seen attendance rates for the school reach more than 94%, well above the national average for special schools, to come in line with mainstream schools.

Other strengths were the promotion of equal opportunities, a wide range of activities on offer, work experience placements and the school’s Positive, Proactive Behaviour Strategy.

Nicola Brown, Principal, said:

We’re so proud of the outcome and being judged good in all categories. This outcome represents the hard work and dedication of all the staff who have worked so hard over the last few years since the last inspection, putting each learner at the heart of what they do to make sure every learner can reach and fulfil their planned destination through personalised learning programmes.

During the recent inspection in April, all responses from parents to the inspection questionnaire were returned ‘full of praise’ for the school, without exception. Any parents spoken to directly during the inspection also reflected a positive view of the school and its staff.

The school, which has capacity for 55 pupils, but which currently has 27 learners aged between six and 19 years, has been advised to provide more detailed progress reports to trustees, to keep up and advance teaching standards and to maximise learning time within each classroom session to go from ‘good’ to ‘outstanding’.

Aycliffe School

Director of Education Chris Dempster, said:

This report is testament to the hard work of the school principal, whole staff team and to the learners. We have a continuous drive to further improve outcomes for learners. I am delighted that the report mentions our vision; shared and supported by the Trustees and CEO, to enable each learner to achieve their maximum potential.

Other highlights recorded in the inspection report included the school’s broad curriculum and sensory artwork being described as ‘captivating’, and special mention to the Kustom Konfectionary social enterprise where post-16 students source ingredients, budget, prepare and then sell fudge products.

In concluding the report the lead inspector wrote:

The impact of the provision, including effective personalised advice and guidance ensures that learners are well prepared for their next steps into the wider world.

Click here to read the full report