Harlow Fields praised highly following Ofsted inspection

Education / Wed 6th Dec 2023 at 02:06pm

HARLOW Fields School and College has been praised and rated “Good” following an Ofsted inspection.

Ofsted visited the special needs school over a two day period in late October.

The report stated:

Harlow Fields School and College is a place where pupils are kind and respectful to each other. Staff ensure that pupils, including those with the most profound needs, are safe and well cared for.

Adults support pupils well to manage their complex emotions and feelings. This helps pupils to behave. On the playground, pupils interact positively with each other and staff. Pupils respect each other’s differences and needs. Students in the sixth form act as excellent role models for the younger pupils.

Some of the clubs are only just returning, following the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, there are a range of experiences and activities that complement the curriculum. Regular trips out are thoughtful and engaging. Pupils visit local cafés and sports centres. This helps them to apply their learning from school. Pupils build their confidence by taking part in a wide range of theatrical productions. They also learn how to use public transport safely.

However, some curriculum documents are not clear enough. They do not tell teachers exactly what should be taught and when. Refinements are needed to check pupils’ learning, and some staff do not have high enough expectations of what pupils can achieve.

What does the school do well and what does it need to do better?

The school is reviewing many aspects of its work alongside pupils and their families. This includes relooking at the quality of the curriculum pupils receive. This is timely, as some parts of the curriculum are better than others. Several curriculum areas are not well sequenced. Curriculum documentation does not always articulate clearly what the school wants pupils to be able to do and when. This makes it much harder for staff to plan effective lessons. In addition, some staff have low expectations of what pupils can achieve. They choose activities that are too easy or not well thought through. This hampers pupils’ progress.

While some checks on pupils’ learning are helpful and linked to the key knowledge, a few are not. Parts of some subjects are not checked at all. Therefore, staff do not always know how well pupils are progressing. Some systems that show how well pupils are doing lead to unnecessary activities for staff. This makes it harder for staff, as it negatively affects their workload.

Across the school, ‘personal learning targets’ identify pupils’ individual special educational needs and/or disabilities. Teachers understand these documents and use them when planning lessons. For pupils with the most profound needs, staff know exactly what help the pupils need. This might be assistance with pupils’ mobility, medical care or communication aids.

This positivity is echoed in the sixth form. On entry, staff check students’ prior knowledge effectively. They then plug the gaps in what students need to know and do next. Students in the sixth form access a well-planned curriculum, shaped around their individual needs. Depending on these needs, students access two effective ‘pathways’ of learning. These pathways cover a range of topics and qualifications. High-quality careers guidance and work experience prepare students well for their next steps.

All pupils regularly read or are read to by adults. Staff bring stories alive using a range of sensory techniques to engage and stimulate all pupils. Staff support pupils to take the necessary small steps towards learning to read. They help pupils with important sounds and noises or share and repeat songs and rhymes. Staff adjust the effective phonics scheme appropriately. This helps many pupils to read independently.

Staff consistently deal with challenging and complex behaviour well. Regular training ensures staff know how to quickly de-escalate tricky situations and support pupils to manage their feelings. Additional therapies and external support work well and link closely to pupils’ different needs. Consequently, the school is generally a calm place for pupils. Lessons are not often disrupted.

Pupils learn how to keep safe, for instance while online. Pupils learn about road safety and how to use transport. By the time pupils are in the sixth form, some can travel independently to workplaces or school. Relationships education teaches pupils about friendships in an effective, age-appropriate way.

The self-evaluation document shows that the school and the governing body are acutely aware of the issues with the curriculum. However, work to improve the school has only just begun, and so staff and pupils are yet to feel much benefit.

The full report can be seen below.


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