HOW KNIGHTSFIELD SCHOOL GETS IT RIGHT
In December 2014 Ofsted published its inspection report into the quality of education provision for deaf secondary aged pupils at Knightsfield School in Hertfordshire. The school inspectors graded the school as outstanding.
Almost three quarters of the students at the school have additional needs such as specific communication and language difficulties, dyslexia, visual impairment, specific learning difficulties and medical needs. Students’ attainment when they start at the school is low compared with that expected for their age.
Gaining an outstanding judgement is a remarkable achievement and a credit to the school’s pupils, staff and governing body.
The inspectors identified many positive aspects. Here are seven highlights in their report that caught my eye. They constitute some of the essential ingredients that have to be put in place if deaf children are going to achieve their full potential throughout the UK.
1. Achievement of students: Students’ achievement is outstanding. Every student leaves Year 11 with at least five GCSEs, including English and mathematics, some at the highest levels. The majority of students make better progress in English and mathematics than is typical for similar-aged students nationally. This means they catch-up or are catching-up rapidly with all students in mainstream schools by the time they leave, despite their low starting points. Students say they have to work very hard but are proud of the progress they have made since leaving their previous schools
2. Leadership: The school’s leaders have high expectations, monitor the school’s work well and constantly challenge teachers to raise the achievement of students and strive for continuous improvement. Governors are well informed enabling to challenge leaders and to support developments very effectively.
3. The quality of school staff: Staff have an excellent understanding of how best to promote the learning of deaf students and use this knowledge to cater extremely well for their needs. The teachers have an excellent oversight of students’ progress and provide them with good written and spoken feedback to help them to understand what they are good at and how to improve. They routinely identify the things that slow down students’ learning and seek the best kind of support for individual needs and abilities often in partnership speech and language therapists and audiologists and parents. Teaching assistants support students very well because they are trained well
4. A focus on language and communication skills: Teachers ensure students to make remarkable gains in their communication and language skills. Students make huge strides in developing their self-confidence and in their ability to communicate freely with others. This enables them to learn very effectively in class.
5. Links with other schools: The school has developed excellent links with a local school and a college enable its students to learn alongside hearing children in mainstream settings with excellent support from Knightsfield staff. This enables the students to benefit from their specialist subject teaching and facilities in the neighbouring school and college.
6. Understanding and meeting social and emotional needs of deaf students: The social and emotional needs of the pupils are met exceptionally well and as a result behaviour is outstanding with students reporting very little bullying. The school thoroughly investigates challenging behaviour of some students, due to their special educational needs. The behaviour is sensibly addressed and very well managed by staff who enable these students to learn to deal with strong feelings in a mature way.
7. Partnership with parents: There are very good partnerships with parents and carers, who are overwhelmingly positive about the school.
The National Deaf Children’s Society has maintained for many years that deafness in itself is not a learning difficultly. With the right support deaf children’s rate of education progress and levels of attainment should match that of hearing children. We are therefore grateful for education services such as Knightsfield school who are working so hard to prove this very point.