A school in Norwich has been named winner of the Outstanding Commitment to SEND award at the Norfolk Education Awards 2023.

The Clare School is a complex needs school which caters for 121 pupils with sensory, physical and medical disabilities. Its vision is to aspire for every pupil to become as independent as possible; to communicate in a meaningful way and to be as happy, healthy and safe as possible.

The school itself was built between 1906 and 1920 and it stands as one of the oldest special needs schools in Norfolk, with .

Pupils travel from all over Norfolk to attend the school, and a team of highly trained support staff with a wide range of specialisms are on hand to help them learn and cater for their needs.

The school endeavours to provide a fully personalised academic curriculum to meet the needs of every pupil and works tirelessly to support them to achieve their goals. It celebrates success at every opportunity to help encourage all pupils to reach their individual potential.

The judges said that they were “humbled by the incredible commitment shown by all at The Clare School in often challenging circumstances”.

They commended the individualised support that the school provides for each pupil and their families, both during the school year and in holidays, adding that this is “vital for children and the families” and that “the school is obviously more than just a school to the children with whom it works”.

Recognising that a complex needs school such as The Clare School would be expected to show a strong commitment to SEND, the judges said they believed that “the staff in the school and the wider community are going above and beyond what would normally be expected”.

“The level of support they provide and their commitment to ensuring the children are happy and fulfilled is commendable,” they added.

Rebecca Wicks, headteacher at The Clare School, said: “I didn’t expect this today if I’m honest, but it makes me really tearful because this is for the children. They are the thing that makes The Clare School brilliant. They have incredibly short lives and they make every day an absolute pleasure to be with.

“I am really chuffed to win this award.”

For more information on the Norfolk Education Awards, please visit the website.

To find out more about all of this year's winners, please click here.

The finalists

Aylsham High School

During the pandemic, Aylsham High School took the decision to invite Year 7 nurture students with special educational needs to attend the school setting, considering the vulnerabilities and implications that the wider global circumstances were having.

It has also produced a Fishing for Schools programme to deliver the Angling Skills Activity Award.

The judges were impressed by the work that Aylsham and head of nurture provision Danny Sweatman undertook “to ensure pupils were inspired to continue their schoolwork” during Covid.

They commended Danny’s “commitment and determination to offer opportunities for all pupils despite the challenges”.

Elaine Dale – City College Norwich

Elaine Dale advocates for all those with SEND at City College Norwich – students and staff.

She has developed a toolkit for working with and making adjustments for young people with SEND, and she presents a number of visits and webinars as one of only three colleges recognised as a Centre for Excellence in SEND.

The judges praised Elaine’s “strong commitment” to SEND pupils’ learning and development and continued work in this area, and said that “she clearly works hard within the college, but also shares her knowledge and skills further afield”.