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Hope House School, Balderton, rated as good in latest Ofsted inspection

A school has celebrated after getting a positive inspection report — marking a successful period of improvement under a new head.

Hope House School, an independent special school for pupils aged five to 19, on Barnby Road, Balderton, has been rated as ‘good’ in all areas by Ofsted following an inspection which took place in May.

Head Michelle McRae joined the school in September 2022, bringing years of expertise to the role after the school’s previous ‘requires improvement’ rating in June 2022.

Hope House School celebrating its Good Ofsted report.
Hope House School celebrating its Good Ofsted report.

Key changes which she has made include consistency of staffing, reducing the number of supply staff at the school, additional training for teachers, movement to a ‘primary-style model’ where pupils stay with one teacher throughout the day, refurbishment and IT improvements in the school building and a change in the management structure.

Leadership and management and quality of education were the areas which had dropped the school’s rating in previous inspections.

She said: “I came in when the school was rated as requires improvement.

“Obviously I’m really pleased, and pleased for the staff — many of whom were here before me — they deserve it.

“We’ve got well trained staff, with any new head teacher you do a sweep of the staff to check who is able to do the job. We had a lot of supply when I arrived, now we have just two because of an increase in staff numbers.

“I feel as though when I arrived staff were a bit downtrodden and exhausted by different people coming in, but they’ve stayed on board and been really resilient.”

Two areas for improvement were noted by Ofsted, relating to “an inconsistent approach to the teaching of reading” and a lack of precision in pupil’s personal development plans.

The school has consistently been rated as good for personal development and behaviour and attitudes over the past three inspections.

Hope House School celebrating its Good Ofsted report.
Hope House School celebrating its Good Ofsted report.

The latest Ofsted report notes “pupils enjoy attending the school” and there is a good relationship between the staff and students, who know they will be looked after and kept safe.

Inspectors also found the pupils have time and sensory space to regulate their emotions, have a structured and calm environment to learn in, and develop confidence, independence and life skills through activities and classes.

Pupils following a formal curriculum have well-structured lessons delivered by teachers with good subject knowledge, and those following a less formal curriculum have support to develop the personal and learning skills.

The also have opportunities to take part in activities such as horse riding, tennis, swimming and trips, and also recieve guidance on further education.

“The personal development has always been good, but I think the children are just more settled now,” Michelle added.

“We have a consistency of staffing, and the children are greeted by their teachers in the morning. It’s an extremely nurturing environment.”

As an independent school, Hope House must meet both Ofsted and the Independent Schools Inspectorate’s requirements, and also have regular quality insurance checks from every council area the children attending come from.

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