A UNIQUE school that provides much-needed help across the North to children with social, emotional and mental health issues has won high praise from inspectors.
Marchbank Free School has been awarded good across the board in its first ever inspection by Ofsted.
Part of the Education Village Academy Trust, Marchbank was launched in 2013 and takes children from Stockton, Darlington, Northallerton, Richmond, Harrogate, Bedale, Boroughbridge and Stokesley.
Based in Mowden Hall, Darlington, it helps 30 students with social, emotional and mental health needs and their associated difficulties and has quickly built a reputation for catering for students with sensory issues, working closely with children’s occupational therapy service Future Steps.
HMIs working for Ofsted observed teaching and learning across the school and talked to staff, students, governors and the EVAT chief executive as well as scrutinising work and systems.
The school was graded good in all four key areas of leadership and management, behaviour and safety, quality of teaching and achievement of pupils.
The report stated:
• “Pupils thrive at Marchbank. The calm, caring atmosphere, high expectations, excellent relationships between staff and pupils and good teaching ensure all pupils settle in quickly and achieve well from their very low starting points.
• Leaders and governors live out their vision to transform pupils’ experiences of school successfully. Pupils enjoy school, following very unsatisfactory previous experiences. Their rapidly improved attendance rates pay testament to this.
• Pupils who had been excluded from or regularly isolated from their peers in their previous schools, relish their lessons. They achieve and behave well, mixing with their friends at carefully supervised social times across the day.
• Leaders have created an atmosphere in school where all pupils are equally valued and supported to overcome significant barriers in their learning and behave well. The proud way pupils wear their uniform and talk about their school is a pleasure to witness.
They also praised teachers’ training, the well-balanced curriculum and the strong partnerships developed with parents.
Principal Mandy Southwick said she was delighted with the findings, which came at a time when demand for the school’s expertise was growing across the region.
She said: “The inspection was an intense process and we are really pleased with the outcome. The inspectors have acknowledged what we know we do really well which has pleased staff.
“We have fabulous children and the inspectors recognised how well-behaved, well mannered and respectful our children are. They are good kids with a great work ethic who make good academic progress and our job is to meet their individual needs.”
EVAT is currently working on a business plan to expand numbers to 42 as demand grows for Marchbank’s services, particularly in the area of occupational therapy for children with sensory needs and students with behaviours that can challenge.