This is an outstanding school.
- Inspirational leadership by the headteacher, supported by senior and middle leaders, has created a clear vision for the future of the school, and improved learning and achievement in recent years. All pupils achieve exceptionally well throughout the school because staff know each one very well. Pupils make excellent progress from their starting points. They make significant gains in improving their reading, writing, communication and mathematics skills.
- The outstanding teaching is very successful in ensuring the overwhelming majority of pupils make excellent progress. Teaching targets support for the pupils’ needs very effectively.
- Pupils’ behaviour is exemplary. This is because they are happy learners and feel safe, secure and valued by all staff. They have excellent attitudes towards their learning.
- Leadership and management are of a consistently high quality. The headteacher, together with senior and middle leaders, ensures that the performance of staff is evaluated rigorously and developed to ensure the best for the students.
- High-quality partnerships exist with other educational providers to improve the quality of teaching and pupils’ achievement.
- Children in the Reception class have an excellent start to their schooling because staff have high expectations of what they can achieve and their needs are met extremely well.
- In almost all lessons, the most able pupils are given activities that challenge their thinking and have opportunities to practise their literacy and numeracy skills in different subjects. Just occasionally, staff planning falls a little short of this expectation.
- The sixth form is excellent. Pupils have extensive opportunities to experience life outside school. These successfully help prepare them for their next steps in later life and learning.
- The experienced Chair and members of the governing body care deeply about the school. They provide a valuable level of challenge and support to leaders. They ensure that government funding for improving learners’ basic skills is well spent for the benefit of all groups of pupils.
Special schools are incredibly complex organisations, and Ifield, because of its tradition of innovation and work for children with Special Education Needs in the community has a wider range of provision than most. OFSTED describes it thus:
- Ifield School is a special school for children and young people with profound, severe and complex needs. Almost half of all pupils have a diagnosis of autism, and speech and language difficulties; some have complex medical needs.
- Almost all pupils are admitted from nurseries and maintained schools from across the county. All pupils have a statement of special educational needs.
- The proportion of pupils from ethnic minority heritages is just above average, and the proportion of the pupils who speak English as an additional language is just below average, with a few at the early stages of learning English. The majority of pupils are boys.
- The proportion of pupils known to be eligible for the pupil premium (those eligible for free school meals, those in care and those with a parent or carer in the armed services) is above average. Nine pupils are looked after by Kent or other local authorities.
- A small proportion of pupils across the school are involved with the local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) as a result of their behavioural needs.
- The sixth form is based at North West Kent College and nursery-aged children attend The King’s Farm Nursery, both being taught by Ifield staff.
- The school works with many different bodies and organisations, including the Gravesham Learning Partnership, Thamesview School, Hadlow College, and the Challenger Troop.
- In 2012, the local authority devolved the Specialist Teaching and Learning Service (STLS) to 12 special schools in Kent, of which Ifield currently manages two districts. Since this time, Ifield staff have strengthened outreach services in partnership with other schools by providing specialist staff training and resources through SMILE (Supporting Multi-Professional Inclusive Learning and Education) based at the school, for 36 Gravesham schools. It also leads on research and development in the training of new teachers in partnership with two universities.
- The school is located on an attractive and spacious nine acre site. There is also a six acre managed woodland area off site that provides a stimulating outside classroom.
- The school was designated a National Support School in May 2013.The headteacher is a National Leader in Education (NLE) and one of the assistant headteachers is a Specialist Leader in Education (SLE).
Not resting on its laurels, Ifield is currently close to final agreement on a 19-24 Centre, as many of its young people continue to need further development in life skills after school..
The reference to SMILE, whilst brief, refers to a county wide programme in SEN, which was first developed at Ifield School in 1999. It has built upon what was originally a unique programme of support for children with Special Education Needs in mainstream schools in Gravesham, to its current widely recognised activities of: training in SEN for teachers, classroom assistants, parents and others from across Kent; offering specialist support for children in 36 mainstream schools with SEN, especially autistic spectrum disorders; and providing a resource base for mainstream schools to draw on. KCC has now adopted the highly successful Ifield SMILE concept and run it out across Kent.
The school has over 150 staff, operating on its four sites and into the community, and my congratulations go to everyone involved, not least our 200 wonderful pupils whose education is the reason so many staff show such commitment in this excellent school.