A glowing report from Ofsted inspectors has underlined a Medway special school as one of the foremost of its kind in the country. ALL aspects of Abbey Court Community School, from the achievements of the pupils and their behaviour to the quality of teaching, leadership and management, have been judged as outstanding by Ofsted inspectors. Inspectors visited the school, which had also been rated as Outstanding when it was last inspected in 2010, over two days at the end of October, observing lessons, speaking with staff, pupils and parents.

Abbey Court, which has sites in Rede Court Road, Strood and Long Catlis Road, Rainham, caters for 146 pupils aged between three and 19 with severe and profound learning difficulties. It has specialist status for cognition and learning and the inspectors refer to the numerous awards it has won for different aspects of its work including the British Council’s International School Award in recognition of its involvement in global activities.

Headteacher Karen Joy’s inspirational leadership, together with the support of her highly effective senior team, is highlighted in the report. The inspectors say this ensures the school meets fully its vision and aims and lives up to its motto “We grow people”. All the staff are dedicated and have a high level of commitment. The highly experienced governors provide outstanding support as well as ensuring the school is financially stable. A questionnaire and regular surveys show parents feel their children are happy and safe at school.

According to the report, pupils are happy and eager to get to school in the morning and adults greet them with a genuine sense of warmth which immediately puts them at ease. Attitudes to learning are said to be excellent because of the wide variety of well chosen activities. The main teaching strength is seen in the way all teachers and adults work together to help the pupils achieve their individual learning targets.
The pupils’ outstanding progress is particularly evident in literacy, numeracy and information and communication technology. Those with speech, language and communication needs make significant strides thanks to a range of new technologies as well as the use of picture symbol cards.

The secondary department in Strood includes a 21-strong sixth form enabling older students to continue their seamless progress through the school and achieve nationally recognised qualifications. The inspectors say this improves their independence and social skills preparing them successfully for life beyond the school. Eileen James, Chair of Governors said: “The governors are proud of the outstanding achievement of the school. However, much more could be achieved if the school was united on a single site with improved accommodation. This would enable Abbey Court’s exemplary practice to be shared across Medway and beyond.”