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The Holmewood School wins Senior Leadership team AND special needs initiative of the year

The Holmewood School wins Senior Leadership team AND special needs initiative of the year at the prestigious Tes Independent School Awards 2019

‘Steps to success paved with kindness’

The Holmewood School, a 7-19 years autism specialist school near Finchley, has won two prestigious awards at the Tes Independent School Awards 2019.

Happiness and kindness pulse through the veins of this small special needs school nestled in a quiet corner of North London where students are welcomed each day into an old Victorian house by happy and passionate staff.

With every student being on the autism spectrum and over half having additional mental health needs, the SLT acknowledges that it can be a challenging environment for staff. The senior leadership team’s commitment to putting student and staff welfare first was what set it apart for judges at the Tes Independent Schools Awards 2019.

The team’s holistic and open-minded approach shapes the school: as Ofsted noted at a 2018 inspection, “staff share leaders’ vision to ‘think differently’ about pupils on the autistic spectrum”.

Lead judge John Claughton said: “Holmewood richly deserved to win not only through the quality of their submission but also because it is important to show that there are outstanding specialist schools in the independent sector for students with special educational needs. That diversity of provision is too often hidden.”

They were also worthy winners of the Special Needs Initiative of the Year award in recognition of their ‘creative and practical cooking initiative’, The Holmewood School Occupational Therapy cafe.

The Occupational Therapy Café started life as staff searched for ways to help a student who was at risk of exclusion because of his poor behaviour. After several months they discovered his interest in cooking and developed a programme that swiftly improved his

conduct. Keen to capitalise on his success, staff expanded the project for other pupils, creating a café team of five students, including a baker, senior chef and several trainees, supported by occupational therapists.

Café members have not only improved their motor skills through cooking but also boosted their confidence navigating social situations such as dealing with customers. Some students have enjoyed the project so much they now want to pursue in a career in the culinary field.

Lead judge Margaret Mulholland said: “This is a wonderful example of a social enterprise initiative set up by the Occupational Therapy team to explicitly strengthen motor skills development whilst supporting steps toward employability. The pride of the young people, parents and other stakeholders shone through in this application.”

Head Teacher of The Holmewood School Lisa Camilleri praised her staff. She said: “I am delighted and so proud of our wonderful team... to take away two awards was a big surprise and is testament to all the work we’ve done together over the last three years.”

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