Education news

School for pupils with learning difficulties exits `special measures'

Rathore Special School was praised by inspectors

A SCHOOL for children and teenagers with severe learning difficulties has exited `special measures' after making significant improvements.

Inspectors praised the quality of education at Rathore School near Newry as well as the effectiveness of leadership and management.

It last year became just the third special school ever to be placed into `formal intervention'.

Schools in this process must work to address issues raised during inspection.

Rathore provides education for pupils with severe learning difficulties, aged from three to 19. This includes those with profound and multiple learning difficulties, complex healthcare needs in conjunction with severe learning difficulties and some who exhibit challenging behaviour.

At its original inspection, it was told it needed to provide effective strategic leadership, "including the rigorous monitoring and evaluation of the quality of learning and teaching". The majority of lessons observed were "good or better".

Inspectors carried out an interim follow-up visit in September 2016.

They noted changes including the appointment of a new, permanent principal and senior leadership team. In addition, regular observations of learning and teaching throughout the school had begun.

"The outcomes for learners are now good. The coordinator's observations of learning and teaching, and feedback at individual teacher and whole school level are impacting positively on the educational outcomes of the pupils," inspectors said in their follow-up report.

"The pupils have high levels of engagement and enjoyment in their learning, and persevere with challenging tasks. The independence and positive behaviours of the pupils are facilitated well through thoughtful early intervention strategies. The senior pupils are confident with staff and visitors to the school, and are actively involved in planning for their futures."

Inspectors added that the quality of provision was now very good while the strategic leadership of the school had improved significantly.

Principal Caroline Currie said the school had a proud history of meeting the needs of families in south Armagh and south Down. When inspected in 2015, she said, it was obvious that progress was needed to be made.

"Everyone has embraced and contributed to the changes made in school in order to improve provision for our pupils," Ms Currie said.

"Teamwork is embodied within our school culture and everyone has worked together to focus on school improvement, with our pupils at the heart of everything we do. We are delighted at the outcome and that the efforts made by everyone in our school community has been recognised formally."

Governors said they were delighted with the inspection outcome and said Rathore was "now well equipped to sustain improvement and looks forward to working with our partners in education as we do so in the interests of all our pupils".

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