What others say

What others say


Challenge Partner review – November 2023

  • “Leaders have chosen a ‘pathway’ model for their school’s curriculum. Pathway one has pupils with the most profound and complex special educational needs and disability (SEND), whereas Pathway four has pupils who are the most cognitively able and most independent. By developing this ‘schools within schools’ approach, pupils benefit from having a curriculum that matches their distinct SEND needs.”
  • “Leaders push their commitment to continuous learning and training for whole school development. A good example of this is the ‘Growing Great People Strategy’ that ‘talent mines’ the staff. This has then led to more consistent skilled staff, better retention of quality team members, and a greater universal understanding of the values and ethos of the trust. As one colleague shared, “I’ve seen it all over the years here. The last few years, the support has been amazing. I’m going to fly.”
  • “At HWA, the environment is linked to pedagogy. Classrooms and corridors are low-arousal, with carefully chosen pictures and displays. Communication passports developed with the SaLT, inform the staff how to initiate communication in a way that matches each pupil’s receptive and expressive abilities. When needed, Teacch methodology is followed, including pod working, and Writing With Symbols timetables and prompts. All of this supports pupils’ regulation and communication, to make the most of each school day.”
  • “Pupils at HWA have varied timetables, where every opportunity is taken to practise their learning beyond the school gate. For example, one Year 10 pupil, with an interest in becoming a recycling operative, has work experiences distinctly linked to this, and other opportunities to support his wider communication and regulation, including horse riding, and working to support a local food bank. All the resources of the school can work jointly with pupils’ aspirations, to develop pupils’ confidence for life in the wider community as an adult with SEND.”
  • “The position of the Sixth Form in Peterlee, allows for travel training and independence opportunities, as well as further work experience. Pupils travel independently or are supported between sites. They plan and develop enterprise activities incorporating functional mathematics and functional English. Pupils leave HWA well prepared for the next stage in their education, employment, and/or training.”
  • “HWA is invested in having a strong and active pupil voice. The pupils are confident in articulating this work. Walking through HWA, displays celebrate the achievements of the pupil voice group. Posters link to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the successful relationships developed by peer mentors across pathways three and four. Pupils know that they are valued and that their voice is to be heard.”
  • “The Rebound Therapy Programme gives pupils the opportunity to both energise themselves into activity, and then regulate themselves. HWA has invested in a specific rebound room for this, with the support of the sensory OT. Pupils are supported to develop the skills they need for communication and regulation, which will help them through their lives as adults with SEND.”
  • “All staff are trained in Emotion Coaching. This supports pupils’ emotional wellbeing and self-regulation. Pupils benefit from working with understanding staff, who help them access their learning.”
  • “Pupils are comfortable and happy at HWA. New pupils speak about how they felt ‘safer and happier since arriving at Hope Wood this year’. Personalised transition plans negotiated between the school, the pupils themselves and their families support these huge moments. Pupils are keen to share how their new school successfully supports moments of dysregulation and how they are supported to have positive outcomes, especially when they are dealing with difficult or challenging issues. Pupils joining the school have every opportunity for success, where they may have struggled before.”
  • “Sensory OT is well embedded throughout the school. Programmes of therapy are put in place by specialist therapists and delivered by classroom staff for individual pupils. These chosen programmes are then integrated into all aspects of pupils’ daily activities. Pupils use the skills gained in the programmes to tolerate a wider range of stimuli and self-regulate their feelings and emotions.”


Challenge Partners Review – November 2023


Families First Quality Award – July 2023

“Leadership and continuous Improvement is strong. Leaders promote and model effective team work, collaborative working and a culture of continuous improvement. Senior leaders communicate their strong commitment to Academy values, continuous improvement and evidence-based practice. The Deputy Head Pastoral and SENDCo is a member of the Senior Leadership Team, and leaders rigorously monitor and review safeguarding, attendance, curriculum achievements against targets, and SEND support provided to students at regular meetings. This means that emerging additional support needs for vulnerable families are picked up and actioned and referrals and progress are regularly reviewed. Staff, parents/carers and partners all referred to the inclusive and respectful culture of the Academy. The ‘open door’ approach means that ideas for improvements can be discussed informally with staff, as well as at scheduled meetings.

“Family Support is strong. The role of parents/carers in supporting readiness for learning is clearly valued by the Academy team, and a range of approaches are used which enable family needs to be identified and met. As part of transition into the Academy, parents/carers are invited to a presentation and discussion, led by senior leaders and pastoral staff. Details of family support provision, and the range of media available to promote two way communication are discussed, and this information is also included on the Academy website. Facebook issued regularly to engage with parents/carers and to provide updates on developments at Hope Wood, as is a regular newsletter. The two-way ClassDoJo staff-parent communications system, and the Evidence for LearningApp, were also highlighted by parents/carers as providing very helpful information on their child’s wellbeing, learning, and support available. Parents/carers interviewed confirmed that all staff are very welcoming, that they feel part of the Academy family, and that they therefore feel comfortable to get in touch with staff to raise questions, or to ask for support. They also reported that they always get timely responses to meet their needs, that staff are honest, friendly and kind, and go out of their way to help.

“Partnership working is strong. Parents/carers interviewed confirmed that multi-agency links, including the involvement of services such as occupational therapy, promote attendance and student engagement. Partners referred to multi-agency and partnership working as a real strength at Hope Wood. Effective relationships have also continued to be established with opportunity providers, including colleges, employers, community venues and charitable organisations, which provide work experience and visits into the community for students. This partnership work, in turn, enables providers to learn more about the value of the recruitment of neurodiverse staff, and adaptations helpful to enable them to maximise their potential in the community and in the world of work. Collaborative work is improving outcomes for parents/carers and their children”

Families First Quality Award July 2023 


Challenge Partner Review December 2022

  • Leaders at Hope Wood have a clearly articulated high ambition for students, delivered with a strong moral purpose. Leaders are proactive and brave. They are not afraid to take considered risks to meet student need.
  • Thoughtfully planned, bespoke and highly effective CPD is greatly valued by staff, including regular Wednesday sessions for new staff and various academy and trust wide CPD and coaching to improve practice.
  • Teaching assistants (TAs) and instructors have a clear career structure at Hope Wood. Home grown early career teachers (ECTs) have benefited from this structure to become teachers. They are well supported by personalised mentoring and coaching support in and beyond the academy.
  • The cohesive student support team comprises an EHCP officer, safeguarding lead, behaviour support manager, speech and language assistant and family support officer. The team has supported the embedding of Emotion Coaching and Zones of Regulation, referring to trauma informed approaches. Emotion Coaching has significantly reduced the use of physical interventions and changed the culture of the academy for the better. Students benefit from a comprehensive tiered approach to their well-being.
  • Curriculum conversations enhance professional dialogue between leaders at all levels with the ethos of ‘doing with’ not ‘doing to,’ supporting holistic quality assurance of the curriculum.
  • Teaching staff have a deep knowledge of their students and subjects. Trusting relationships are a key feature of the academy. Students feel safe to express themselves and take risks in their learning. Conduct and behaviour for learning are exemplary.
  • The culture of kindness and support is palpable. In the student voice meeting a student offered to teach a colleague how to tie their laces. In a mathematics lesson a student saw that a fellow student had made a mistake and suggested a new approach to the problem.
  • Due to well thought out structures, routines and learning activities, students engage well with their learning. Transitions within and between classes are well organised and efficient.

Challenge Partners report December 2022


Rights Respecting School Award Visit November 2021

  • Strong pupil voice which has led to changes in school and influenced policy and practice in the local authority and local businesses, impacting on rights beyond the school gates.
  • Pupil voice is now central to the EHCP review process, and the school makes sure this is effective not tokenistic.
  • Good understanding of equity across the school community which ensures that young people are supported in the best ways for them, for example through Emotion Coaching when dealing with behaviour incidents, meaning that positive relationships are underpinned by an understanding of rights.
  • UN Global Goals are driving policy and practice in areas of work across the Ascent Academies’ Trust, including work on sustainability and poverty proofing.

Hope Wood Academy Gold Accreditation Report November 2021