Awarded ‘Good’ by Ofsted following an inspection in January 2024

They did it! Pupils from Marchbank Free School celebrate their Ofsted inspection of good with outstanding areas.

A SCHOOL for children with additional needs has won high praise from inspectors for ensuring its pupils thrive.

Ofsted inspectors applauded staff at Marchbank Free School, in Darlington, for having a ‘relentless ambition for all pupils to achieve success’.

They awarded the school good for overall effectiveness, the quality of education and leadership and management and outstanding for pupil behaviour and attitudes and personal development. After the last inspection in 2021 Marchbank was said to ‘require improvement’.

The school, for children with social, emotional and mental health difficulties, autism and other learning issues, opened in Mowden Hall, in 2013, with just 13 pupils and now has a roll of 53.

Part of the Education Village Academy Trust, the grading means that all of its schools are now rated good.

Marchbank’s head of school Tess Wright said: “This is down to the absolute hard work of staff and the passion they have to want to improve the lives of all of our pupils. The parents’ responses are so touching, with some saying we have changed the lives of pupils and their families, and it is great that the inspectors have recognised this.”

Executive principal Caroline Green added: “I’d like to thank all the staff and our governors, who are superb, and the rest of the trust where best practice and considerable expertise is shared across all of the schools to great effect.”

The report stated: “Pupils thrive at Marchbank Free School. Staff know each individual pupil well and develop strong professional relationships with them. As soon as they start at the school, pupils receive close attention, nurture and care. The nurturing environment helps pupils to feel safe and ready to learn once again.

“Pupils enjoy valuable experiences that broaden their horizons beyond the classroom. They are carefully planned to help pupils develop self-esteem and prepare for later life. They play a significant part in rebuilding confidence through enjoying success. Opportunities include learning new skills such as those of forest school, cooking, gardening and sports skills, or developing musical talents.

“Leaders and their staff team have a relentless ambition for all pupils to achieve success. From difficult starts, pupils receive exemplary levels of support for their development around all aspects of their self-worth, presentation and achievements. The sharp focus on pupils’ needs drives a well-organised curriculum from which all pupils benefit.”

Inspectors met with the executive principal, head of school, assistant headteachers, teachers, governors, the family well-being lead and support staff.

The report said: “The school’s leadership, including the trust, has been highly effective in transforming this school. All leaders have a deep knowledge of the school’s strengths and areas where they continue to develop. The trust uses this to provide appropriate levels of challenge and support. A strong team ethic ensures staff are well supported.”

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