Primary school for SEN students where kids read to elderly people given ‘Outstanding’ rating

By Joe Coughlan, Local Democracy Reporter

A primary school for children with special educational needs has been given the highest possible rating by Ofsted, with pupils reportedly reading out stories on the telephone to elderly people.

Waterside School in Robert Street, Plumstead has been rated “Outstanding” in all areas in a recent report from Ofsted.

The school provides education for pupils with social, emotional and mental health difficulties (SEMH) and autism spectrum disorder.

Waterside School, as seen in Robert Street, Plumstead (Picture: Google Earth)

The report praised the school for the “inspiring culture” created by staff, with students said to be capable of focussing extremely well in lessons. Pupils also reportedly take part in topical debates and philosophical discussions.

Meic Griffiths, executive headteacher of Waterside School, said: “They are able to do exactly the same, if not better in some cases, than their mainstream colleagues. All they need is their curriculum to be unpicked and an understanding of why their anxiety levels have caused them not to be in school or to succeed at school.”

The inspector also said in their report that students and staff had good working relationships, which are built on “mutual respect” and are non-judgmental. Leaders at the school reportedly help pupils to create positive links with local residents, with some students even reading stories over the phone to elderly citizens.

Mr Griffiths said that the scheme was brought to Waterside after the head of school made contact with the charity who started the initiative, Silver Stories. He said 16 children from the school each ring an elderly member of the community across the UK for half an hour during a weekly supervised call, which includes a brief chat followed by reading stories from novels.

He said: “[Elderly residents] have come back saying it’s just phenomenal that this kid who couldn’t have read their own name four months ago is now reading a book that is fairly complicated and has a lot of inference.”

He added: “To hear the joy that my children have when they come out of reading to their person. I can’t bottle that, I really wish I could.”

The report said the attitude of staff was “overwhelmingly positive” and that they were proud to work at the school. Mr Griffiths said leaders place a large emphasis on supporting staff, with several members of the team having moved into senior leadership roles.

Pictured top: Students and staff of Waterside School (Picture: Imperium Foundation)

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