STAFF and pupils at Aycliffe School, run by the North East Autism Society, are celebrating after impressing Ofsted inspectors.

The specialist school in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, was rated as good overall with outstanding behaviour and attitudes.

Inspectors who visited the school in June said in their report: “There is a calm, caring atmosphere in this nurturing school.

Pupils are closely supervised and supported well by highly skilled staff. Behaviour is excellent. There are very high expectations.

They also described the curriculum as “broad and ambitious” and said staff had good knowledge of the subjects they teach.

Aycliffe School has 53 pupils aged four to 19 who are all autistic and/or neurodivergent. Some were out of education for years before going to the school, which provides personalised programmes and specialist support to ensure they can engage and learn. 

Principal Kirsty Carr said she was very proud of staff and pupils. “It was a really strong Ofsted report that reflects the quality of what we do.

“We have a very strong staff team and everyone works hard with the pupils – staff should be really proud.”

Specialist schools are inspected on the same framework as mainstream schools, and their curriculum has to be just as broad and balanced. Kirsty said: “We have worked hard to broaden the curriculum and have done a lot of curriculum training especially in Phonics, English, Maths, Science and PSHE.

We have seen a 100% increase in the rate of pupils achieving qualifications and we continue to be ambitious. Pupils are really proud of their achievements.

Ofsted inspectors also praised the work Aycliffe does to meet the sensory and communication needs of pupils, some of which are complex.

The report said: “Pupils develop strong, trusting relationships with staff. They develop very positive attitudes towards school.

“Staff support pupils to understand and manage their emotions and behaviour exceptionally well. Staff listen to pupils. They help them to overcome barriers to learning.”

Pupils told inspectors there was no bullying at school and that they felt safe. Parents said the school had been transformative for their children’s lives.

Now the school is hosting a summer picnic next month for staff, parents and pupils to celebrate the report together. Kirsty said: “Our pupils are amazing and are a real credit to their parents, who are very supportive of the school. It’s a very strong community.”

Find out more about Aycliffe School