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  • Writer's pictureGemma Doyle

Advanced Autism Accreditation awarded to The Holmewood School

It is with great pleasure that I can inform you that the Autism Accreditation Award Committee has awarded The Holmewood School an Advanced Accredited Award following our Autism Accreditation review in February 2020.

Advanced awards are only given to provisions who offer excellent person centred support showing a high level of consistency and quality rooted in a specialist understanding of best practice in the field of autism. We are now one of about 20 services in the UK to receive this status and I am exceptionally proud.

The committee pulled out a particularly high number of strengths of the school which included:

  1. The school takes autistic young people who have a high level of complex emotional and behaviour issues often coupled with negative experiences of education. The school’s impact on these young people is transformative and greatly increases their potential to lead a happy and fulfilling life.

  2. The school benefits from a strong leadership team and a staff team that fully understand and are committed to a shared vision.

  3. An effective balance is achieved between a strong focus on well-being and practical life skills and access to academic opportunities appropriate to the age and ability of the students.

  4. The Well-being and Life skills Curriculum taught both within specific sessions as well as through whole school approaches can be considered a strength of the school and have rightly been recognised with awards.

  5. A transdisciplinary team of therapists and teaching staff work closely together to develop and regularly update packages of support. These packages are imaginative and highly individualised with a strong focus on exploiting individual skills, strengths and interests. Where students are experiencing challenges, a problem-solving team approach is taken in which every effort is made to find a solution.

  6. There is a commitment within the school to empowering students to have the confidence and skills to express opinion and advocate for themselves and others. The school explicitly encourages students to value and celebrate difference; between themselves and others; to be tolerant and compassionate and to prepare them to be citizens in a very diverse society. This includes explicit teaching in understanding neurodiversity and the strengths and challenges of autism.

  7. The school is very much a community. Parents interviewed by the lead assessor explicitly refer to it as ‘family’. Staff consistently treat students with respect and positive regard. Consistent rules and boundaries are set but without confrontation or conflict but rather by encouraging the students to recognise the value of compromise and collaboration.

  8. The Zones of regulation approach is embedded practice throughout the school with a high level of consistency with it being fully understood and followed by both staff and students.

  9. The bespoke development of interests into vocational pathways in the 6th form provision (which involves linking up with a range of providers and professionals) is impressive.

  10. Outside of the classroom, peer to peer social interaction is pro-actively facilitated and encouraged. Indeed, this is a defining characteristic of the school culture with autistic students seen to regularly enjoy each other’s company, look out for each other and develop social skills within a naturalistic context.

In regards to considerations for future development the committee suggested we focus on two things:

  1. The school should ensure that students are provided with more regular opportunities to develop their skills in collaborative teamwork with peers.

  2. Consideration should be given to how to best deploy learning assistants to further promote student independence.

However, the team noted, “whilst these are considered important areas to address, the committee do not feel they detract from the overall success of the school and the transformative effect it has on its students”.

The overall response was: “The committee was left in no doubt that the school achieves impressive outcomes for its students and has a considerable impact on the well-being and quality of life of these young autistic people as they progress through the school and transition to adulthood.”

This award goes a long way in highlighting the great work of our team at Holmewood, and how, together, we really do make a difference to the lives of autistic young people.

I’d like to extend a special thank you to all the parents who spoke to our assessors or gave their feedback via the questionnaire. Your input was vital in gaining Advanced Status as it is not given without 100% positive feedback from parents.

I also want to say a big thank you to Ms Wiltshire, Lead Autism Teacher who worked closely with all members of the school to unite us further and drive us to this result.

If we were able to meet in person we would all be having a celebration of some sort, but for now this will have to wait. I’m sure that once we are together again, this will be one of many causes for celebration.

Best wishes to you all

Ms Camilleri

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