The Hopedale Group wins Outstanding Impact awardThe NASS Outstanding Impact award recognises outstanding work that has profoundly impacted upon the outcomes for children and young people

2023 Shortlisted nominees:

  • School for Inspiring Talents – Maintaining excellence and growth
  • Arc School Ansley – Beekeeping project

2023 Winner: The Hopedale Group – Staff recruitment, retention and training programme

Summary of the shortlisted and winning projects

School for Inspiring Talents – Maintaining excellence and growth

Based across two sites in South Devon, The School for Inspiring Talents is an independent special school that supports 61 students who have experienced challenging life experiences. It has a high staff-to-student ratio, ensuring tailored support for each student’s specific needs.

The school is the first in the UK to gain the Trauma and Mental Health Informed Schools Award. It has an on-site therapeutic team that includes an Occupational Therapist, Speech and Language Therapist, and Trauma Recovery and Mental Health Practitioners.

In 2020-21, the school adopted the Nordic teaching and learning model, which it says has improved management, supporting staff to focus on the wellbeing of their students. These measures contributed to positive Ofsted feedback at its most recent inspection.

The school continually reinvests in its sites, staff, and systems, introducing new equipment and facilities to enhance learning. This includes new climbing and play equipment to encourage outdoor activities. There are themed ‘harbour rooms’ offering safe, calming spaces for students who are dysregulating, and an Immersion Suite enables interactive tech-based learning

The school uses the Good Childhood Index to measure student satisfaction and has seen year-on-year improvements. In 2023, it achieved the WAS Optimus Wellbeing Award for supporting emotional wellbeing and positive mental health in students, their families and its staff. In 2022 it introduced a bespoke wellbeing benefits package for staff, and activities encouraging team bonding and enjoyment.

The school’s approach has led to recognition from Pearson Education’s Pastoral School Award and a shortlisting at the TES Awards for Best Specialist Provision of the year. The co-founder of the school also received the British Empire Medal for his services to education.

Arc School Ansley – Beekeeping project

Arc School Ansley is an independent specialist day school in Ansley, Warwickshire for children and young people aged between 11 and 17 with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Condition, who may have many associated needs such as; social, emotional and mental health needs, communication needs and cognition and learning needs.

The bee-keeping project at Arc School Ansley has provided students with a unique opportunity to learn about the environment, sustainability, and biodiversity while gaining skills for future employment. The project was initiated after a visit to the Bee Show and was supported by a grant from Bees for Schools.

The students have built an apiary, are undertaking their Junior Beekeeping qualifications, and have set up a business, ADH-Bees, to sell the honey. They’ve learned about bee behaviour and self-regulation, teamwork, planning, and communication through their work with the bees.

The school shared that the project has also had a significant impact on the students’ confidence and social skills. They’ve prepared presentations, participated in assemblies, and even helped gather a local swarm of bees. The project has also taught them about sustainability and business as they plan to sell honey and beeswax candles.

Arc School Ansley reported that overall the bee project has had a marked impact on learning, skills development, relationship building, confidence boosting, and environmental awareness at the school.

The Hopedale Group – Staff recruitment, retention and training programme

The Hopedale Group (which consists of Hopedale, Bluebell, Heather Field and Lavender Field Schools) is a group of independent specialist schools in Staffordshire and Cheshire. They provide education to pupils aged 5 to 18 with a range of social, emotional and mental health needs, in addition to those with more complex learning difficulties and autism.

The Hopedale Group has developed an effective approach to staff recruitment, retention, and training, with a focus on internal growth and development. An impressive 59% of the current teaching staff have obtained or are working towards QTS while at the school, and 79% of the senior leadership team were recruited internally (3 of whom began their journey as a TA).

The group’s recruitment process prioritises personality and interaction style with children, believing that other aspects of a role can be learned. This approach has resulted in a low staff turnover rate of 1.9% and a strong school ethos.

The group’s commitment to staff development is reflected in the creation of a senior position focusing solely on this area. They work closely with the TES Institute, which recognises Hopedale as a leading Straight to Teaching Hub, in recognition of the quality and volume of trainees it supports.

Hopedale says that the emphasis on staff stability and development has had a profound impact on the students, who thrive in an environment of consistency, strong ethos, and quality. The group says its success is evidenced in data sets, parent views, OFSTED reports, and the calm and productive atmosphere at each of their schools.