Alternative School passes first examination

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a PENDLE secondary school which caters for students with special educational needs has had its first inspection by Ofsted inspectors.

The Alternative School, which has bases in Barnoldswick, Nelson and Accrington, has 34 pupils on roll between the ages of 14 and 16. It was set up in May, 2007.

In his report, lead inspector Amraz Ali said: “The Alternative School successfully meets its aims and provides a good quality of education for its students. The satisfactory curriculum meets students’ needs by providing individualised learning opportunities and has strengths in the opportunities that promote pupils’ personal development.

“The curriculum along with good teaching provides an all-round education which develops students’ attitudes and improves their attendance and engagement in education well. Students’ spiritual, moral social and cultural development is good and their behaviour is satisfactory.

“The provision for welfare, health and safety is satisfactory and all of the requirements to safeguard students are in place. The school meets most of the regulations for independent schools.

“The curriculum is satisfactory overall but with particular strengths in the way that it is made flexible to match the individual needs of students. The required range of experiences is provided and there are suitable schemes of work for the subjects taught although there is a weakness in the provision of science.

“Planning for the teaching of science is through a range of subjects, such as physical education and outdoor education courses, which cover the required range of scientific areas of study. The planning is not of the same quality as that for other subjects. There are limited facilities available for practical science work and students do not have regular access to laboratory experience.

“Work undertaken in most subjects leads to externally accredited qualifications. Activities, both indoors and outdoors, provide the students with new experiences that effectively develop their basic skills, particularly in reading, writing and mathematics, in situations that are less formal than more traditional schools and which students say are non-threatening.

“Personal, social, health and citizenship education is an important part of the education provided and each student receives clear and consistent careers guidance with small achievable steps to help them gain college places.

“A strong feature of the school’s work centres on its use of the outdoors and the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, on which the majority of students are enrolled. Students are able to select from a wide range of outdoor sporting and adventurous activities, such as canoeing, caving, archery and mountain biking.

Teaching and assessment are good. Teachers plan their lessons well and the teaching observed met students’ needs well. Many students start at the school with weak basic skills and they are often acutely aware of their own shortcomings in literacy and numeracy. A key factor in the school’s success has been in the small group sizes and the one-to-one support provided for students. The support and guidance they receive ensures that they make good progress overall. Teachers are confident and use their good relationships effectively to motivate students. Praise and encouragement are often the order of the day. Students state that this has been

a key factor in helping them to succeed with their studies.”