Ofsted joy for resurgent special school two years after inadequate report

Philippa Whipp and Peter Marshall with pupils from Acorn Park School celebrating its good Ofsted result

Philippa Whipp and Peter Marshall with pupils from Acorn Park School celebrating its good Ofsted result - Credit: Archant

A school which was placed into special measures just two years ago is celebrating after a dramatic turnaround saw it earn a glowing report from inspectors.

Acorn Park, an independent special school for children with autism in Banham, was rated as inadequate and told to make urgent improvements by Ofsted In February 2020.

However, two years on, the regulator has now hailed its rapid improvement and rated the south Norfolk school as 'good' - the second-highest rating available.

The aftermath of the 2020 inspection saw an entirely new leadership team brought in to the school to drive its improvement, with inspectors judging that the move had paid off.

The report reads: "Pupils of all ages feel happy, supported and well cared for. They say 'you can be yourself - the school is very inclusive'."

The school caters for 97 children aged between five and 19 who have been diagnosed with autism and associated conditions - while simultaneously running children's homes that provide residential care for some of its pupils.

Philippa Whipp, the head of school who was brought in 18 months ago to help lead the transformation, said: "There is no greater pride than knowing our pupils feel they can be themselves.

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"We strive to provide a safe and inclusive environment at Acorn Park and having that recognised by this report is a testament to the ethos and values we have developed over the last year-and-a-half.

"We aim to provide every opportunity to ensure that each young person leaves the school with the highest level of independence they can achieve, ready to contribute to the world."

With the school catering to a wide range of autism spectrum disorders, the school offers a 'formal' pathway where pupils take a more traditional approach to learning and a 'semi-formal' one which focusses more on developing knowledge and skills needed to become independent. This approach earned the praise of the inspectors.

Peter Marshall, head of services at Acorn Park School

Peter Marshall, head of services at Acorn Park School - Credit: Arorn Park

Peter Marshall, head of services at Acorn Park, added: "I am immensely proud of this inspection report.

"Philippa and her amazing team have worked tirelessly to make the necessary changes and develop our excellent provision - I'm humbled that so many of our families spoke so positively of the school."