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The Characteristics of the school community

Ferndearle is a small vibrant non-association independent school for students with SEMH.  The school is on the DFE’s Approved List. We have a Safe at School Award from Salus and we are a JCQ Centre for Examinations. Staff and students are talented and hard-working.  It is well-regarded by Local authorities, Social Workers, parents and foster parents. Our current students comprise of   children who are looked after coming from different parts of the country and Day pupils.  Some reside within the residential homes that form part of Ferndearle Child Care Services whilst others are either fostered or live with parents. Some students undertake therapy once a week as part of our therapeutic focus.  We have a high turn–over of students who do not necessarily stay with us for a whole key stage and less time, if necessary.   

Characteristics of learners:

Our students come from a range of backgrounds and circumstances, many traumatic. For these students, basic education and social skills are often lacking. The behaviour of our students has impacted on their learning outcomes and is, at times, challenging. We have to work hard with them to make them value and support their education and self-worth.

Evidence from the school’s assessment and tracking systems indicate that (see tracking and mobility data):

  • Generally, students enter with skills below the average age expectation.
  • The majority of students have experienced a high number of education settings.
  • Our assessments show a trend for a significant number of these to be more able pupils than entry data would suggest.
  • Most pupils enter the school with attainment and progress below the national expectations.


The distinctive aims and special features of Ferndearle School

The school’s aim is for pupils to be happy and successful. In pursuit of this, Ferndearle is a busy school. The learning environment is dynamic. The quality of management and planning is a strong feature of the school. The teaching staff are mainly young, hard-working and enthusiastic. The leadership is strong.


Significant Barriers to progress

1. Many students join Ferndearle with significant development delay and they struggle to catch up. Many of our children lack independent learning attributes e.g. resilience, concentration. As a result, the current focus is on developing independence and resilience.
2. The mobility of pupils is high, but the school’s tracking shows that the students who leave are at the point where they are able to access mainstream or need alternative learning environments.  Those joining, have social and personal issues, for example with a history of poor attendance, low attainment, multiple school moves and some with social care involvement.
3. Staff turnover has plateaued recently enabling Ferndearle School to be a secure and safe environment for our students.  The school   maintains high standards of teaching and learning.


Aids to progress:

1. The staff have a high commitment, energy and determination to help the children succeed. This is reflected in the way all staff have pushed through improvements in teaching and learning.

  • Relationships through the school are good between staff and students. Students recognise and appreciate this.
  • Attendance of teaching and support staff is high.
  • Staff have areas of strength in a variety of fields that enable the learning experience to be varied.
  • The highly effective leadership results in strong teams across every age range.
  • The Head teacher is experienced and has a successful track record. This has been a valuable support for the development of the staff.


2. The approach that underpins Ferndearle School provides good support for the personal and social development of students.

3. The local environment is rich in resources which are well used to enrich learning.


Attendance of students continues to be outstanding. Attainment and progress has improved, though is judged by the school to be good and in some cases outstanding because by the end of their time in school, pupils have made significant progress in comparison to data on entry. The trends in attainment and progress have been upwards for the last year in all subjects. Outcomes are working towards national expectations from individual starting points for some students. Attainment and progress are good in the Core subjects from the students starting points; writing and reading continue to improve. Pupils are well-prepared for the next stage of education.
There are no consistent trends in the performance of groups; each year, different groups perform differently across subjects.
Students read widely. There has been a continued focus to improve reading, comprehension and spelling within the school, which has helped to improve higher level writing and to raise all standards in different key stages. The unwavering focus for the Management is on maintaining consistently high quality daily teaching and learning and on the progress of every individual child.
The Birches – This school to the end of 2017-2018 had students from year 2 to year 9.  They enter the school well below national standards, especially in social and emotional, in linking sounds and letters and in knowledge and understanding of the world. The most progress has been made in areas of English and Maths. The % working towards the expected level in reading has improved. Outcomes in the number area of learning continue to improve and are now more in line with Maths progress rates. As a result, there has been a re-


organisation of The Birches and an increased focus throughout on Science, Reading and Phonics learning.  The 4 students who could have sat KS2 SATS examinations were not entered as this was not appropriate for these individuals. 

Heather Lodge – Students in this school ranged from year 7 to year 9 (2017-2018).  We have continued this academic year, to have a 3- year KS4.  Benchmarks were below national standards due to students “catching up”. However, all students have made good progress.  There were no students to be entered for national examinations at the end of the academic year 2018. 

1 student is moving to mainstream schooling as of September 2018 and 2 are moving on to larger SEMH settings as of September 2018. 



Over the course of 2017-2018, attainment has risen. and the school has closed the gaps with national standards. The school now has a number of students working at Grades in line with GCSE levels in English and Maths.  This is in line with expectations in relation to ability and demonstrates good progress for the individual students.

Attainment in reading was generally below the national standards. However, the gap has closed significantly (Reading Assessments). The focus is to continue the upward trend and for some individual students to reach national levels.

  • Attainment in English at all levels has increased at a fast rate.
  • Attainment in Maths have resulted in significant improvements. 



Key Stage Progress:

  • The % of pupils making progress is accelerating in all subjects.
  • The % making excellent progress is above in English; however below in reading and writing. Measures of progress over time show that the school now does well for all groups. The school needs to raise the attainment and progress of KS2 and KS3 students and also to raise the % of pupils making above-expected progress in reading and maths.
  • Most students receive Pupil Premium and interventions are being put in place that will enable these children to make appropriate progress. 
  • The % of non-mobile students making expected progress is significantly improving in maths and writing. Analysis shows that there is a movement away from the school expecting students of disadvantaged backgrounds to underperform.  Most of the students who join us bring social and emotional issues which affect learning; and many are assessed by us below their recorded KS attainment.
  • Teacher assessments have traditionally been higher than SATs, especially by the end of KS2.  We introduced the use of SATs practice papers and renewed the emphasis on applying reading, writing and mathematical skills and it is anticipated this will show improved performance and outcomes for individual students.





  • Raise attainment across the school in reading.
  • Improve spelling across the school.
  • Raise attainment and progress across all key stages for all students in Maths and English.
  • Increase the number of pupils reaching expected progress and above in reading, writing and comprehension.
  • Raise attainment across KS3/4 in all areas.



We judge this area to be good, because the evidence from lesson observations for performance management and work scrutiny is that the teaching and learning in most lessons is good. The regular, unannounced learning walks confirm that T&L is consistently good and sometimes outstanding. (See appraisals, lesson observations; learning walks, work scrutinies’).

There has NOT been a high turnover of teaching assistants in the last year and this has enabled leaders to embed high standards. Leaders continue to pursue excellence in T&L. Staff and Proprietors expect all students to make accelerated progress throughout the school. As a result there is an expectation that the quality of teaching and learning is high at all times, not just in pre-planned observations. Rigorous monitoring gives a clear picture of the position of learning and teaching across the school. Shared and individual actions arising from regular scrutiny are implemented and regularly monitored. This has led to consistency in application of policies and procedures.

The evaluation is that teachers plan for effective and enjoyable learning. This helps the majority of students to learn and achieve well. Teachers have good subject knowledge, pupils now know how to improve their work, and the dialogue between all adults and students enhances learning. Teachers have high expectations. They plan for differentiated learning and use planning flexibly to meet changing learning needs. Marking and feedback is used well to improve learning. Teachers check pupils’ understanding during lessons and adapt the T&L to children’s needs. Teachers are skilful in questioning pupils in order to reshape explanations and grouping. Pupils are engaged and generally enthused in their learning, both in lessons and through their learning at home.  Relationships across the school are excellent.


  • There is a clear Teaching and Learning Policy with guidelines for staff. This has been developed with all teachers. It outlines expected best practice and provides a benchmark for evaluating the quality of teaching.
  • There are regular learning walks by the Headteacher to identify good practice and areas for development.
  • Judgements are triangulated using evidence from pupil progress data and work scrutiny.
  • Work scrutiny confirms that high quality marking and feedback is used to ensure pupils make good progress.
  • Where teaching is less than good, leaders provide a support plan for improvement, which details support and monitoring arrangements.
  • In-school training is regular and of high quality. Teachers across the school support each other in constantly seeking to improve and to support pupils in making good progress.
  • Students say they enjoy coming to school and their learning.

The focus of the school continues to ensure that all teaching and learning is consistently good or outstanding. The Management is leading this through:

  • Setting high expectations.
  • Providing high quality and focused training at staff, group and individual levels.
  • Providing regular feedback for individuals on strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Providing action plans and support for individuals who require improvements.



We judge this area to be good. There is a strong ethos of respect and courtesy between pupils and adults alike. Students are happy in school and the overwhelming majority show the high standards of behaviour in and out of the classroom. There is generally a positive ethos and atmosphere. This is because of the skilful teaching, and because the vast majority of students have internalised the high expectations in the school. A very small minority of the students can present challenging behaviour, so it is a credit to the staff that they are included and mostly behave well. Learning behaviour is improving all the time, for example through the impact of the school’s drive for independence and resilience. As a result, students are keen to learn in lessons and are learning not to be distracted by others. Students can manage their own behaviour and deal independently with their relationships with others. Students know how to assess and manage risk and keep themselves safe.


  • Evidence from lesson observations and talking to children is that they enjoy their learning and are keen to improve and make progress.
  • Evidence from lesson observations and break times is that the positive behaviour strategies are successful and behaviour is managed consistently well. Low level disruption in lessons is becoming uncommon.
  • The high standards have been noted by outside agencies and are always noticed by visitors.
  • Children tell us that they happy in school and enjoy their learning.
  • There are examples throughout the school day of students’ courtesy and good manners to each other and adults.
  • Records show that the instances of students behaving below the expectations are becoming less frequent and involve very few individuals. Where this has happened, plans and interventions are put in place to improve behaviours. (See data and case studies).
  • Any incidents of unacceptable behaviour and alleged bullying are investigated and followed up. (See logs, IRR’s INRR’s, behaviour data).
  • Pupils with the most challenging behaviour have clear expectations, structures and systems to support and manage their behaviour (Case studies illustrate a high commitment to inclusion).


Pupils’ Punctuality at school and in lessons
Punctuality is outstanding in school. 100% of students arrive at school on time before registers close.

Students move from area to area quickly and are monitored by support staff.

Attendance is 100% for the majority of students, the majority of the time. At times when a student has had to have time off this tends to be an authorised absence.  (See attendance registers).

Evidence of the impact of our outstanding practice:

  • The school has made sustained and strenuous efforts to improve attendance, and has succeeded. (daily records etc,).
  • Every aspect of attendance has improved.
  • In line with all the other improvements, there is evidence that the number of pupils arriving late has reduced as a result of the actions taken in school.



  • The focus of the school is to ensure that the high standards of behaviour continue and that children increase their independence and resilience.
  • A very few pupils exhibit the most challenging behaviour and the Management will work to reduce the impact of these pupils on the safety and learning of others.
  • The relentless pursuit of high attendance will continue.


The school has evidence to demonstrate that the L&M in the school matches each of the good grade descriptors. The team face regular challenges and always meet each one with a clear vision and determination to reach the highest standards. The current challenges are to raise attainment in all key stages and to maintain the best teaching and learning across the school, with new staff in post. There is already an impact on these areas, because of the commitment to, and leadership of improvement at every level (staff, Proprietors, students, other stakeholders).

The L&M and proprietors have an unwavering focus on maintaining consistently high quality of daily teaching and learning and on the progress of every individual child. In Safeguarding, we follow all guidance and we welcome a rigorous evaluation of our systems and procedures. The curriculum and additional provision provides positive experiences and opportunities for quality learning. Staff model professional standards and high levels of respect and courtesy for students. Financial management of resources is good and the resources/learning environment is good.

The Proprietors of the school are very effective. They are provided with comprehensive information and evaluations, which enable them to challenge school leaders about the achievement of pupils and every aspect of the school. They have a good handle on the achievement data and the quality of teaching. They are well aware of the performance and salary progression of staff and ensure that the school is financially stable. They make sure that policies, including those relating to safeguarding pupils, are regularly reviewed and updated and are implemented effectively. They provide strong challenge and they are also highly supportive.


Improving teaching & learning and pupils’ outcomes: systems of monitoring, evaluation and support are good.

  • There has been a clear impact in all key stages. Evidence from internal tracking shows that standards continue to improve.
  • There are rigorous systems to evaluate and improve T&L.
  • Support for new staff is strong, through leadership in school.
  • There are Pupil progress meetings over the course of the year, in which teachers take an ownership in tracking their students’ progress, in evaluating this and planning for the next steps to plan for accelerated progress for individuals.
  • The HT uses these to hold teachers to account and to target interventions. All teachers take an ownership of their students’ progress.
  • All students are supported in a range of ways to ensure their well-being (coaching, 1:1 and therapy).
  • SEN provision is effective, and meets the needs of students (see records MEPs PSPs,).

Promoting good learning behaviour:

  • When lesson observations have identified instances where 100% of students have not been engaged, the HT has revised guidelines and training for staff, e.g. embedding the BFL policy has been used to promote independence and resilience.
  • There are good systems to support the behaviour of all students, including the more challenging.
  • Students say that they enjoy getting praise and certificates for good behaviour and seeing their names in records; for example, class rewards and weekly/termly awards.  (See case studies and Child).
  • Students and adults tell us they feel safe, are happy and are proud of their achievements.

Developing staff and tackling under-performance:

  • Performance management (including all aspects of monitoring and support) for teachers and support staff is used effectively to develop leadership skills and improve teaching and learning.
  • Targets for formal Appraisal are aligned to the school improvement priorities and teachers and teaching assistants are assessed against the Teaching/Teaching Assistant Standards.
  • The leadership team sets a good example and challenges/supports any teaching which is less than good.
  • Leaders and the Proprietors pursue a vision for the highest standards:


All leaders and proprietors are successful in inspiring the school community to share a strong sense of purpose; for example in working towards ambitious targets for all pupils and in community cohesion.

Curriculum Provision:

The school has worked on curriculum development to match learning closely to the needs and interests of students.

  • There is a strong emphasis on the teaching and application of skills in Literacy and Numeracy.
  • The curriculum has been adapted to meet and engage the interests of all students.


Engagement with Stakeholders:

Staff, all stakeholders and students are engaged in raising attainment and standards.
There is a transparent and efficient system for dealing with concerns/complaints.


We will continue to improve leadership at all levels.

  • Continue to develop the programme to encourage students to be resilient, resourceful and reflective.
  • Enhance the leadership at subject level: teachers to be aware of standards in their area and feed back to improve.




The school’s curriculum contributes well to the students’ spiritual, moral, and cultural development. Much work in school through SEAL and PSHE encourages the development of skills in moral, social and cultural areas. Staff provide strong role models of politeness, cooperation and mutual respect. There is an emphasis on students developing their independence. The broad and balanced curriculum offers an exciting and relevant curriculum which is appropriate for our students. Trips and assemblies are used to reinforce the school’s ethos and offer the chance to reflect and develop empathy.

There are opportunities for students to take part in a wide range of artistic, cultural, sporting, adventurous, dramatic, musical, mathematical, scientific, technological and even international events both in school time and at home.

As a result, students at Ferndearle respect others’ needs and interests. They mix well and the evidence from classrooms and break times is clear, that pupils work and socialise in varying groups. Pupils have a strong sense of the school’s values and of values across societies and cultures.  They are developing an understanding of the world beyond Ferndearle and the exciting possibilities it offers for work and fulfilment. Pupils are showing increasing evidence of being self-reliant, resilient and resourceful.



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