Ofsted Report November 2022

Ofsted Report November 2022

7 January 2023


Ofsted undertook a Social Care Inspection of the William Henry Smith School on 15th & 16th November 2022 and the school was judged ‘Outstanding’ for the 18th consecutive time.

The school is a non-maintained residential special school for boys who experience social, emotional & mental health needs. Students may also have additional needs, including learning difficulties, autism spectrum disorder and communication challenges. There are 81 students on roll at the school and there is a capacity for 28 boys to stay in the residential provision. The school provides education for students aged 5 to 16 years old and accommodation for boys up to 19 years old.  The older students attend colleges in the local area.

Ofsted inspected the school under the three focus areas and recorded their judgements:

Overall experiences and progress of children and young people-Outstanding

How well children and young people are helped and protected-Outstanding

The effectiveness of leaders and managers-Outstanding

Overall experiences and progress of children and young people - Outstanding

The residential special school provides highly effective services that consistently exceeds the standards of good. The actions of the school contribute to significantly improved outcomes and positive experiences for children and young people.

Children thoroughly enjoy their residential stays. Many attend the residential provision for several years and it becomes a significant part of their lives. Family members are delighted about the progress that their children make and the support that they receive. Some children are vocal about their wish to be part of the residential provision. One boy said, ‘I put my foot down and said I am going to stay in the residential and that is that.’ Children and their families understand the value of the residential provision. They are extremely grateful for the opportunities it provides.

Children develop strong relationships with staff who they come to know very well. Staff are exceptionally nurturing towards children. Staff use their detailed knowledge of children to provide individualised care that quickly gets to the heart of children’s needs. Children trust staff, because of the responses that they receive. This helps them to make and sustain excellent progress.

Children spend time with staff talking about the issues that matter to them most. Staff are trained to undertake this work. Their conversations with children are meaningful and children begin to understand their potential. With the help of staff, children start to work on achieving what they want. Staff use their skills to support other staff in the school. This enhances the consistent approach that children receive throughout the school.

Children’s emotional and developmental needs are very well supported. A team of therapeutic staff provides targeted help to children and advice for staff. This support can be extended to family members. For example, a group for grandparents has reduced their isolation and increased their knowledge about children’s needs. Therapeutic staff ensure that training for residential staff is coordinated. This ensures there is a unified approach for staff to work within. Staff value the expert guidance that they receive. They use this knowledge to help children to feel safe and to make progress.

How well children and young people are helped and protected-Outstanding

School safeguarding practitioners are tenacious in following up issues with other agencies. Despite an increase in complex issues during this period, staff consistently ensure that children are safe. Children feel safe in the residential provision. Staff offer direct, practical support to children and families at times of crisis. For example, children attend the residential provision if this is needed due to family breakdown. This is often at short notice.

The response to children when there are safeguarding concerns is excellent. For example, if children leave the school grounds, staff immediately search local and other known areas. All protocols are followed, with clear evidence of information-sharing. Safeguarding leaders challenge agencies who do not respond to children’s risks linked to their vulnerabilities.

Recruitment arrangements continue to be safe. Procedures reflect updated statutory guidance, including undertaking online searches of shortlisted candidates. Senior leaders give a great deal of thought to how new staff are employed. As a result, the right staff are recruited and are performing well.

The effectiveness of leaders and managers-Outstanding

Ofsted Inspectors noted that the school is led by a talented and inspirational principal, who is passionate about helping children to make progress in all areas of their development. 

Leaders explore new initiatives. Staff think about ways in which children’s experiences can be enhanced. Existing ways of working are reviewed to ensure that they remain appropriate for children and families. Leaders evaluate the reasons for children’s changing needs and respond accordingly. For example, they recognise that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is far-reaching. In response, the offer of outreach support to families has been extended. This forward-thinking and creative attitude keeps the school responsive to the changing needs of children and their families.

Leaders constantly seek the views of children. Changes within the residential houses are made in consultation with children. Children are encouraged to put forward their ideas for activities, including trips and holidays. Great weight is given to children’s thoughts about their experiences of the school.

Staff receive the training that they need to perform well. They take part in useful, often bespoke training from the specialist staff in school. This input is timely and has considerable impact on staff knowledge and skills. When staff need to learn a lot of information in a short space of time, leaders carry out a review of learning styles. This means that the training is effective. As a result, children are being cared for by staff who have the knowledge and skills to do so well.

Staff continue to receive significant support for their overall well-being. They take part in activities at the end of the week that are imaginative and fun. There is a whole-school approach to this. This means that the newest staff at the beginning of their careers take part in activities alongside the most senior leaders. This helps to break down any barriers to understanding each other’s roles.

The school is extremely well supported by its trustees and the governing body. Representatives of both groups visit the residential provision and talk to children about their experiences.

‘’I am absolutely delighted with the judgement. Our children are happy, thriving, and supported by exceptional staff are achieving significant success. This is a team

effort with support and expertise across care, health and therapy, education, and support services, rising to the challenge of meeting the needs of some very special young people.’’

Sue Ackroyd-Principal