Just one simple word but it’s given staff and residents of a North East Autism Society children’s home plenty of cause for celebration.

Delivered as an across-the-board judgement, Wallingford was found to be ‘outstanding’ in every way, by Oftsted inspectors last month.

It’s the first of its kind for the Society, which has 13 adult residential homes, five children’s homes and two short break services, which up until now have consistently been assessed as ‘good services’ by both CQC and Ofsted.

Described this week in the newly publicised report as ‘consistently exceeding the standards of good’ and decisively contributing to ‘significantly improved outcomes’ for the children and young people in their care, Chief Executive Officer for NEAS, John Phillipson, was delighted with the report.

I’m really proud of the work that NEAS does across the board but there are those occasions when I just have to acknowledge that we do at times do something so exceptional that even the experts take notice. This is the first of our homes to be judged as outstanding by Ofsted, of which I am particularly proud, but if you visited you would see why immediately.

John added:

For me Wallingford, and some other of our homes, have almost a ‘magic ingredient’ which makes them outstanding. It’s widely known how stressful an Oftsed inspection can be, anyone in this sector knows how many policies and procedures are involved, how rigorous the safeguarding all is, how many regulations have to be adhered to… and yet you walk in to a home like that and you would never know that all of that was just below the surface. It just feels like a loving, family home. Now I know, and our staff know, just how much work goes into creating such a wonderful, safe environment. To have Ofsted acknowledge that too, is fantastic. Definitely worth celebrating.

The full inspection, which took place on December 13th, reviewed three key points:

  • the overall experiences and progress of children living in the home
  • how well the young people are helped and protected and the impact and effectiveness of leaders and managers
  • every area was found to be ‘outstanding’

Wallingford Children

Of particular note was the staff team’s ability to ‘instantly respond’ to a child in distress or discomfort because of ‘extremely detailed’ care plans and that children living in Wallingford ‘show significant development in all areas of their lives’. A social worker reported that one such child had made impressive progress since moving in.

Grandmother Veronica Fairlie, isn’t surprised by these findings. She said:

That home – and everyone there… second to none. They’ve changed our lives.

Ronnie’s grandson Bradley moved into Wallingford towards the end of summer. She added:

If we’re honest we never wanted him to go anywhere, but it was just getting to the point where his behaviour was so challenging that his mum - and the rest of us -found it hard to cope with. It was devastating for us but we could never have imagined so much change in such a short space of time.

Everyone there treats Bradley like he’s one of their own. It doesn’t seem like a job at all. Thanks to them I’ve got my lovely grandson back. I can’t thank them enough. They really are outstanding.

The report also described the process for admission to the home as ‘exceptionally meticulous’ and praised the team’s ability to cope with challenging behaviour as reflected in the low number of incidents requiring any physical restraint.

The inclusion of ‘wow moments’ in each child’s daily records and manager Deborah Fleetham’s ‘enthusiam and whole-hearted commitment to the welfare of children’ also contributed to the ‘outstanding’ judgement.

Wallingford Children

But Deborah is keen to point out that the home’s success is down to her incredible team.

"I know it sounds like a cliché but I really do have an amazing bunch of people around me. Without them constantly doing more than is expected – which the inspector picked up on – we wouldn’t be outstanding,” said Deb who currently has three children aged between eight and 18 living in the home she manages.

I’m particularly proud that the detail we put into things was reflected in the report. One observation was around the process for admission and how for one child in particular we had carried out several visits, an overnight stay and even a fun day which actually led to us realising he had an obsession with light switches.

The inspector mentioned this and noted how ‘invaluable’ this level of preparation was in making it a smooth transition. That’s the level of detail and excellence we try to use all the time so as a manager I’m thrilled the team have been acknowledged for their commitment and professionalism.

Click here for the full report