Educating Norfolk: Celebrating the success of our complex needs schools

PUBLISHED: 11:40 28 February 2014 | UPDATED: 11:54 28 February 2014

Head teacher Karin Heap at Chapel Road school in Attleborough.; Photo: Bill Smith

Head teacher Karin Heap at Chapel Road school in Attleborough.; Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2011

While overall standards at Norfolk’s mainstream schools have provoked concern, the county’s complex needs schools have been held up as a good example.

Six of the 11 schools have Ofsted’s top “outstanding” rating, while three are “good”. None are in the bottom “inadequate” category.

Co-operation between the schools has been the key to their success, according to Karin Heap, headteacher of Chapel Road School in Attleborough, and last November nine of them formed a co-operative trust to formalise their relationship.

Mrs Heap said: “Because it’s a small group of 11 schools we work really closely together. We have a relationship of trust so if we are in a difficulty we are there to help each other out all the time, even with staff.”

She said the headteachers share the workload when new government initiatives are introduced, with one or two researching the issue and sharing the results.

Mrs Heap is also an Ofsted inspector, and said she had learned that a lot of teaching and leadership skills are generic and can be learned from any good school.

She said: “Every time I go to another school I pick something up and think ‘that’s interesting’. You are never complacent and you are always a little bit challenged. If you are always challenged, you don’t get stale.”

Chapel Road School is aiming to become Norfolk’s fourth designated national teaching school, which have a leading role in staff training and school-to-school support.

Mrs Heap said complex needs schools are especially well-suited to this role because they already work with other mainstream schools to support their pupils with additional needs.

She added that the philosophy that Norfolk complex needs schools are responsible for all children, not just those on their rolls, is a key reason for their success.

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