‘Dynamic’ leaders help special school to improve

Hazel Court School

Hazel Court School

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A “dynamic and skilful” leadership team has helped a school for children with special needs improve its Ofsted rating.

Hazel Court School underwent a two-day inspection earlier this summer and saw its previous ‘requires improvement’ rating raised to ‘good’.

Weaknesses identified at the previous inspection, including those relating to low expectations and the quality of teaching of reading, have been tackled and addressed.

Hilary Macdonald, Ofsted lead inspector

A report from inspectors Hilary Macdonald and Lesley Corbett described Hazel Court as “a good and improving school”.

It added: “In combination, the headteacher and two assistant headteachers provide dynamic and skilful leadership. Staff morale is high and everyone is ambitious to ensure all pupils achieve well and are prepared for their future lives.”

The school is located on two sites – in Larkspur Drive and King’s Drive – and caters for children with a range of special needs such as autism, as well as those with severe learning difficulties. Before October 2013, it had received Ofsted’s top rating, but issues with teaching and pupils’ achievement saw that plummet.

Since then, the efforts of headteacher Sophie Gurney and assistant heads Helen Mackay and Karen Cook, have put Hazel Court back on track to be classed ‘outstanding’.

The inspectors’ report stated: “Weaknesses identified at the previous inspection, including those relating to low expectations and the quality of teaching of reading, have been tackled and addressed.”

The improvements made in teaching and learning were found to be significant with most pupils making good and even outstanding progress in subjects such as reading, writing and maths.

Support offered to the school by East Sussex County Council on its journey back up the rating ladder was described as “highly effective”, while all who responded to Ofsted’s ‘Parent View’ questionnaire said they would recommend Hazel Court to other parents.

After observing 18 lessons, meeting with staff, governors, parents and pupils, and studying school documents, the inspectors made a few suggestions for further improvement to help Hazel Court achieve the ‘outstanding’ rating.

They included: ensuring staff adjusted tasks during lessons if a pupil found them too simple; ensuring turn-taking activities did not last so long pupils lost focus and interest; and further strengthening communication with parents and carers.

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