Praise for school with ‘lots of smiles’

A SPECIAL school has been praised after its first inspection.

Soundwell Academy opened in 2020 and moved to its home on the former Soundwell College campus on St Stephens Road the following year, opening fully last September.

The school, which has 128 pupils aged from five to 18 with social, emotional and mental health issues, was rated good in all areas – quality of education, behaviour and attitudes, leadership and management, and personal development.

An inspection team from Ofsted visited the school during the summer term.

The regulator’s report said: “There are lots of smiles at this school. Staff smile because they love spending time with the pupils. Pupils smile because they can be themselves.

“Strong, trusting relationships between staff and pupils are the reason that this school is such a happy place to be.”

The inspectors said pupils, who all have particular social, emotional or communication needs, “learn to trust adults, behave appropriately and get along with each other” at the school.

Staff teach them to understand and manage their own feelings, and recognise and respect the feelings of others so they can cope in social situations.

The report said: “It does not stop there. Staff are determined that every pupil will achieve academically as much as they can.”

The inspectors said the school curriculum teaches pupils “what they need for employment, for independent living, for good health and for interacting with friends, family and community”, preparing them for adulthood.

Teachers start by getting to know each pupil before drawing up a personal plan, which is followed to help them cope with social situations.

They help pupils to catch up on essential basic learning, such as how to read, before helping them work towards nationally-recognised qualifications as they get older, with careers guidance and practising social skills in the community.

The inspectors said: “Every part of school life adds something specific to pupils’ personal development. Nothing happens by chance.”

The academy serves children from across Bristol, South Gloucestershire and B&NES, and is run by the Learn@ Multi Academy Trust.

Head teacher Craig Abbs said: “We are delighted that the inspection has acknowledged the excellent provision our school staff make for pupils, both academically and pastorally.

“The report highlighted that pupils feel safe, well cared for, and enjoy coming to school. It also noted the significant support from parents and carers, which has been instrumental in making Soundwell a success.

“As a team, we will continue to work hard to maintain this high-quality provision for our pupils.”

Trust interim chief executive Colin Cattanach said he was proud of staff, pupils and their families.

He said: “Despite opening during the pandemic and facing challenges during and after, Soundwell has achieved considerable success in just three years.”