Ofsted rates Northampton special school as ‘good’ in first full inspection since opening

A pupil told inspectors: ‘Teachers really understand us as individuals.’

By Megan Hillery
Friday, 6th May 2022, 3:17 pm

A special school in Northampton has been given a ‘good’ rating by Ofsted in their first full inspection since opening in 2017.

Purple Oaks Academy, in Kingsthorpe, is a special free school for students with autism and severe learning difficulties.

The school was inspected by Ofsted on March 1 and, in a report published this week, the education watchdog said the school has implemented an “ambitious curriculum” and provided early years with a “strong start.”

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Purple Oaks Academy has been rated 'good' by Ofsted. (File picture)

The Ofsted report said that “most pupils enjoy school” and “staff establish caring relationships with children. They help them to feel safe and secure.”

The inspection found that staff have a “good” relationship with pupils and understand the nature of children’s additional needs. Staff establish clear routines and expectations and ensure that extra help is provided for mental health and wellbeing, including visits from a therapy dog.

One pupil told an inspector: “Teachers really understand us as individuals.”

The Ofsted report said that learning is matched to pupils’ individual needs and there are many opportunities to revisit knowledge. Leaders promote reading for pleasure from the early years onwards and there is “timely support” for pupils, who need help with reading.

The report noted that the teaching of phonics is not meeting pupils’ specific needs where it could. There is, however, a plan to introduce a new approach to phonics in the coming term.

Ofsted inspectors found that pupils’ behaviour is “generally good” and bullying is “rare.” They commended the ability of staff to take time to discuss triggers and resolutions for poor behaviour. Improved behaviour, achievements and attendance are rewarded with trips and experiences.

Purple Oaks Academy provides pupils with enrichment activities to help them to socialise and develop life skills - for example, baking and participating in sporting competitions with other schools, visiting museums and theatres.

The report praised the school for teaching pupils about “fundamental British values” such as the importance of democracy, equality and diversity and providing them with independent advice and guidance about further education and future careers.

Ofsted commented that pupils are “well prepared for life in modern Britain.”

According to the latest report, staff enjoy working at the school and leaders are considerate of staff’s workload. It added that the majority of parents are supportive of the school and a “typical” comment was: “The staff makes the school a lovely, supportive, fun, happy, caring educational environment for my child.”

Ofsted concluded their ‘good’ report by telling the school they need to improve by ensuring teachers understand knowledge that pupils need to know for each subject because not all subjects state the key knowledge needed to teach.

Purple Oaks Academy opened in September 2017 and is a member of the Greenwood Academies Trust.

All students who attend the school have an Education, Health and Care Plan.

The academy was built as part of the free school programme in 2017 after £5 million was secured to provide a state of the art building and facilities for students and staff. The new building was completed in December 2017 and the academy moved in January 2018.