A SCHOOL for children with severe learning difficulties and autism has been rated “outstanding” by Ofsted.

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Inspectors said pupils at Spring Common School in Huntingdon had made exceptional progress, particularly in their communication skills, when compared to students nationally at the same starting point.

Only five years ago the school was told it was inadequate and placed in special measures, prompting the new headteacher Kim Taylor to lead a turnaround operation to make the school in American Lane one of the best in the country.

She visited other outstanding schools across the UK to find out what they did well and how her team could benefit, deciding to focus on the training and development of staff to ensure the work of teachers and classroom assistants got top marks.

Lead inspector Pauline Hilling-Smith said the teaching across the school was exceptional, adding that it left students feeling “inspired” and helped them to make “remarkable achievements”.

She said: “Students make outstanding progress, particularly in communication skills. This means they are exceptionally well prepared for the next stage in their education or training.”

Mrs Hilling-Smith highlighted how the school worked with parents to nurture pupils’ interests from an early age, ensuring that they “make rapid progress and get off to an excellent start”.

“Each individual student’s talents in English and mathematics are developed carefully as they progress through the school,” Ms Hilling-Smith said, adding that from Key Stage 3 onwards their progress in applying the skills to real situations grows rapidly.

“This means that every student leaves with a qualification in the functional use of both English and mathematics which is exceptionally useful,” she said.

Staff are “highly skilled in maintaining a positive atmosphere at all times”, using special techniques to ensure students are calm and stress free, such as a carefully planned circuit of physical sensory activities at the start of each day.

The grading from the inspection, which took place on December 5 and 6 last year, means Spring Common is now in the top 11 per cent of schools assessed nationally under strict new Ofsted guidelines during the past year.

Ms Hilling-Smith singled out headteacher Kim Taylor for praise, as well as the school’s governing body.

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