Students and staff at The National Autistic Society Thames Valley School in Tilehurst are delighted after the school was awarded a ‘good’ rating by Ofsted, following its first ever inspection on 4 and 5 May 2016.
The autism-specific free school has been running since 2013 and was last year officially opened by HRH The Countess of Wessex, patron of The National Autistic Society. It caters for up to 50 students between the ages of 5 and 16, offering them specialist support in small classes with a curriculum which is built around each individual.
HRH The Countess of Wessex opening our Thames Valley School in 2015
The school is owned by the NAS Academies Trust, The National Autistic Society's network of free schools and academies.
Ofsted found all aspects of the school to be ‘good’, saying the “principal has successfully created a culture of high aspiration, in which equality of opportunity and diversity underpin the work of staff.”
The school are particularly happy with Ofsted’s recognition of the “strong sense of community” among students. It states: ”Life skills are taught and promoted very effectively. Consequently, pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural understanding is very well developed. Pupils learn to respect each other’s differences and to challenge discrimination in all its forms. This helps to ensure they are very well prepared for life in modern Britain.”
The report also recognised how “many pupils join after years of failure in previous schools” but now “make rapid progress towards fulfilling their academic and social potential.”
More than 1 in 100 people are on the autism spectrum, including an estimated 120,000 school-aged children in England. This means that someone sees, hears and feels the world in a different, often more intense way. But if affects each person differently and can make school life very difficult. For instance, some children are so sensitive to light or sound that an overhead light or humming computer can be physically painful and make it almost impossible to follow a lesson. For others, a small change to the day’s schedule, like the school bus turning up late or a sudden change to the seating plan, can feel like the end of the world.
Robson Laverty and HRH The Countess of Wessex
Some children are able to excel in mainstream schools while others require extensive support in specialist settings, such as Thames Valley School.
Gary Simm, Principal of Thames Valley School, said:
“We’re all absolutely delighted that Ofsted has rated our school as ‘good’. It’s testament to the hard work our staff put in each day to make sure that our pupils have the best education, the best opportunities and the best start in life.
“We’re particularly pleased that our students’ own conduct and respect for each other has been recognised. This is so important to our school’s ethos and our efforts to prepare them for adulthood.
"We’ve only been open for three years and are looking forward to continuing to grow, supporting more children and young people on the autism spectrum to reach their full potential.”
Read the Ofsted report.
Find out more about Thames Valley School.