Outstanding Ofsted for special school near Lancaster

School leaders, staff, pupils and parents at Underley Garden in Kirkby Lonsdale are celebrating remaining top of the Ofsted rankings and achieving, for the second time running, ‘Outstanding’ in all areas.

By Gayle Rouncivell
Wednesday, 6th July 2022, 11:55 am
Updated Wednesday, 6th July 2022, 11:57 am

Underley Garden is an independent special school catering for pupils aged five to 19 with autism, learning difficulties and associated needs and is part of Options Autism, a specialist provider for children, young people and adults with a primary diagnosis of autism.

The inspectors began by applauding the school leaders and staff’s ‘strong determination that all pupils achieve their very best’, saying ‘pupils flourish at this welcoming, happy and successful school. Underley Garden School is like a caring family.’

They described the classrooms as ‘a hive of learning activity’ with ‘pupils keen to share their ideas with others. They strive to earn merit points for behaving well’, and that ‘around school, older pupils are excellent role models to younger ones’.

School leaders, staff, pupils and parents at Underley Garden in Kirkby Lonsdale are celebrating remaining top of the Ofsted rankings.

Underley’s school leaders were commended for the ‘carefully’ designed ‘broad, enjoyable and considered curriculum’, with ‘pupils’ learning broken down into small, logical steps by skilled staff’ providing ‘plenty of opportunities to revisit and secure earlier learning’, ensuring that ‘from their varied starting points, pupils thrive and achieve very well’.

Reading is also noted as a ‘high priority across the curriculum’, with staff planning ‘imaginative and fun reading activities which encourage reading for pleasure’, and that ‘pupils love to share books with their peers and staff’. ‘Strategies to develop pupils’ reading are precisely matched to their needs: reading books are appropriate for each pupil’s reading ability and ‘phonics knowledge is developed in carefully ordered steps’.

The inspectors noted that, ‘when pupils join the school, a team of therapists work closely with staff, parents and carers to precisely identify pupils’ individual social, emotional and learning needs’, in order to ‘develop detailed support programmes for each pupil’ and that ‘staff are highly skilled in ensuring that the curriculum is carefully tailored to each pupil’s needs’.

They went on to say that ‘during their time at the school, pupils thrive personally as well as academically. Staff provide just the right balance of nurture and challenge to ensure that pupils make rapid gains in their self-esteem and confidence. For example, pupils take part in exciting outdoor activities such as sailing and climbing. They take great pride in their achievements’.

April Boyd, head at Underley Garden in Kirkby Lonsdale.

Inspectors commented that ‘Staff are extremely well trained and supported to manage pupils’ behaviour’. They ‘ensure that pupils develop the skills needed to be successful learners, for example to persevere when work is tricky’ and learn how to ‘manage their own emotions successfully’ and ‘use the quiet areas when they feel they need time to be calm’.

They remarked that ‘staff enjoy working at the school’ and ‘felt valued’ and ‘appreciated the many training opportunities provided for them’ by Options Autism, and that the school leaders considered staff workload and wellbeing during any decision making.

‘Pupils benefit from the warm and friendly relationships they have with staff. New pupils settle very quickly and make friends. They love spending time with the teachers’ dogs, Maggie, Dora, Molly and Ollie. They also highlighted that ‘pupils develop as confident individuals’ because of the ‘frequent opportunities for personal development’. They are ‘fully involved in many aspects of school life. For example, they take great pride in running the school shop, delivering the school post and caring for the beautiful gardens’.

Underley Garden makes ‘every effort to prepare pupils for the adult world - for example, pupils apply and are interviewed for leadership roles in school’. They ‘benefit from detailed careers advice, appropriately matched to individual aspirations and aptitudes’. They also take part in ‘gardening, decorating and caring for animals’.

‘A wide range of trips and visits’ enable pupils to ‘develop an understanding of the opportunities available to them’, and the school makes ‘full use of the local community to provide pupils with valuable work experience’. Pupils ‘move on successfully to a range of college and training settings of their choice’ and also ‘learn important life skills, such as using a washing machine and preparing healthy meals’.

Inspectors noted that the ‘pupils develop as active and thoughtful citizens, litter picking in the local area and raising funds for charity’. In school, the school council participates in ‘important decisions, such as changes to the school uniform’.

Parents applauded ‘the transformational impact that the school has on their children, the progress that their children were making, and how happy they are to attend each day’.

Commenting on Underley’s premises, inspectors said ‘the school’s spacious buildings and beautiful grounds support pupils’ learning and well-being’, and the ‘classrooms and learning areas are bright, attractive and well resourced’ with additional provision for the proposed increase in the number of pupils on role from 72 to 96.

School headteacher April Boyd said: “I am so proud of the staff and pupils. Everything we do at Underley is centred around the children; we want them to be happy in their learning environment and ensure they are building their knowledge and skills to support them in their next steps.

"This outcome is an accolade to what we do; the dedication and hard work of the staff, the commitment and resilience of the children and the support of the parent and carers. It is a privilege to lead such an amazing group of people and we look forward to continuing our journey.”

For more information, contact Underley Garden School on 015242 71569, email [email protected] or visit https://www.underleygarden.co.uk/