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Teaching enables students to make "rapid progress"...

Chelfham Bere Alston School for pupils with complex learning difficulties has been praised by the independent education standards watchdog for being "good" across the board.

Staff were singled out as "extremely effective" role models, students’ behaviour was described as "good", and the teaching on offer enabled pupils to make "rapid progress", inspectors said.

The specialist school in Yelverton, Devon provides education for up to 30 students between the ages of seven and 19. The children’s home on the same site caters for up to 16 young people. All young people have a statement of special educational needs, or an education or care plan which specifies social, emotional and mental health difficulties, or autistic spectrum conditions, with complex learning difficulties.

Inspectors said that when students joined the school, they mostly had extremely challenging behaviour patterns.

But, Ofsted said, "they re-engage with learning and adopt positive attitudes and behaviour over time in this good and improving school.

"Students feel safe … the sixth form is effective, preparing students well for their next steps, and students gain self-confidence and the skills of sharing and team-working.

"Good leadership and management are focused on raising standards and are very effective. Teaching and learning are monitored very carefully."

The school’s head teacher Jon Ascot said he was delighted with the report which reflected the school’s achievements and aspirations.

"The school has improved considerably over the last year 18 months, with attendance increasing to 97%, which the inspector identified as ‘being currently higher than that found in both primary and secondary schools nationally’.

"Progress of individuals has improved significantly and the inspector identified that ‘as the school successfully re-engages them in learning, students are able to show rapidly increasing progress and attainment. Virtually all go on to gain a range of worthwhile external accreditation in academic and vocationally based learning by the time they leave'."

Mr Ascot said he himself had been hugely impressed by many individual achievements over the academic year, including one student making a "hugely generous offer" to donate her own hair to a cancer charity which specialises in making hair pieces for children who have lost their hair through cancer treatments.

"As if this wasn’t enough of a good deed, she also managed to raise hundreds of pounds for the charity in the process," Mr Ascot said.

And a sixth form student who successfully completed a BTEC in Fisheries Management had used his qualification to enter employment a few days after completing his course. The student is now employed at a highly regarded fishery in the Midlands.

A group of students and staff also planned and successfully completed the National "Three Peaks Challenge" across Ben Nevis, Snowdon and Scafell Pike. One of the group, a student at Chelfham Bere Alston for the past five years, is also a member of the British Climbing Team who is continuing his studies and preparing for a career in outdoor education as an adventure leader.

Mr Ascot said: "I would personally like to thank the parents and carers and staff, all of whom make our school community so positive and dynamic."

One parent of a child at the school said: "Chelfham is a brilliant place with fantastic staff who are helpful and my son is leaping ahead now, in confidence and with his school work."

Another parent of a Year 11 pupil said: "I don’t know what you have been doing … but I look at my son now and don’t recognise him from where he was and I can only thank you for what you are doing."

The associated children’s home, located on the same site, was also visited by Ofsted at the same time and received a positive report.

Inspectors said: "Since the last inspection the management team and staff group have made significant progress in ensuring that young people are becoming increasingly safe."

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