Letchworth special needs academy marks 40th anniversary year with strong Ofsted report, including ‘outstanding’ personal development rating

Pupils from Letchworth's Woolgrove School on World Book Day last month. Photo: Woolgrove School

Pupils from Letchworth's Woolgrove School on World Book Day last month. Photo: Woolgrove School - Credit: Archant

A special needs academy in Letchworth is celebrating after a strong report from Ofsted inspectors, including an ‘outstanding’ rating for personal development, behaviour and welfare.

Woolgrove School in Pryor Way – which caters for children with moderate learning difficulties, autistic spectrum disorders and underdeveloped communication skills – is marking its 40th anniversary this year, and it received an overall rating of ‘good’ in the Ofsted report published on Tuesday.

Inspectors John Mitcheson and Helen Bailey visited the school on February 21 and 22, among other things observing 11 lessons, and concluded that ‘good teaching and excellent care for pupils enable them to make good progress and thoroughly enjoy school life’.

The report notes: “Pupils thrive in the safe, stimulating environment provided for them. Relationships between pupils, and with staff, are exceptionally strong.

“From their very low starting points, all pupils – including disadvantaged pupils – make good progress.”

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It adds: “The school’s work to promote pupils’ personal development and welfare is outstanding. Leaders provide pupils with a safe, stimulating environment. This enables them to grow in confidence, build self-esteem and thoroughly enjoy school life.

“Pupils respect and care for one another. They are helped to build friendships, to listen carefully to one another without interrupting, and to work and play safely together.

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“Pupils told inspectors that ‘school is a special place for special children, where everyone is nice, we have lots of friends and we have fun.’”

The leadership of both headteacher Lisa Hall and other senior leaders is praised, with staff liaising well with with parents to ensure safety and wellbeing.

The report says that pupils’ needs and backgrounds are well understood, with no safeguarding issues.

Areas highlighted for improvement include letter formation and writing, use of assessment information to accurately chart pupils’ next steps, the development of subject and middle leader roles, and evaluation of training given to governors.

The report notes: “Opportunities to reinforce letter formation and basic handwriting in lessons are not always taken. Tasks involving speaking and

listening, calculating, sorting and storytelling are not backed up with writing tasks. The impact of this is clearly evident in pupils’ books.”

That notwithstanding, the inspectors add that the pupils are well prepared for the next stage of their education, with a high standard of teaching.

The inspectors note that many children join the school with underdeveloped speech and communication skills, but generally make good progress.

A lack of outdoor facilities was also highlighted, with school leaders acknowledging the issue as one they intend to address.

The report describes the submissions from parents as overwhelmingly supportive, and quotes one as saying: “I am happy that I

sent my child to this school as I have seen tremendous progress in his ability since he started.

“It is obvious that he is well taught and very happy at school, so much so that he wants to go even during school breaks.

“In all, Woolgrove perfectly meets the needs of my child and helps him to reach and exceed his potential.”

Woolgrove has about 125 pupils aged from four to 11, most of them boys.

To find out more see woolgrove.herts.sch.uk.

You can read the Ofsted report in full at reports.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report/provider/ELS/137997.

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