Summary from Ofsted Report July 2008
The South Downs Community Special School is a good school where pupils make good progress and achieve well. Its outstanding links with others, including extensive outreach work with other schools and very close working relationships with various agencies, make an extremely valuable contribution to provision.
Parents are very appreciative of all the school offers. Typical of their comments are, 'I cannot praise the school enough for the way it has supported, cared for and educated my child' and 'The support that staff provide for the children is second to none'. Children in the Foundation Stage have a good start, making good progress and achieving well. This is because the provision is well led and managed to make sure the children's individual needs are met. Children in this stage greatly enjoy their learning and activities and look forward to coming to school because activities are very engaging. Their personal development is good because they are very well supported and looked after. Throughout the rest of the school too, pupils make good progress including different groups such as boys and girls and pupils with different types of special educational needs. They make very strong progress in communication because of the school's sharp focus on this and because staff work together very successfully to support it.
Pupils' behaviour is excellent, being extremely well managed with great sensitivity to individual differences. Their understanding of healthy eating and activities is outstanding and reflects the care the school takes in promoting this. Pupils feel very safe because the ethos of the school is secure and warm and because there are robust systems to make sure children are well looked after and protected. They love coming to school because they enjoy all it provides and opportunities are regularly seized that raise their self-esteem and confidence. They contribute positively to the school community, for example by helping other children and by taking active part in the school council, and are developing their understanding of helping others in the wider community very well. Pupils' preparation for their future lives, including their economic understanding, is underpinned by their good progress in basic skills.
The good teaching and learning include very close teamwork between teachers and teaching assistants. Staff are very sensitive to the individual needs of pupils. Lesson planning is very clear, activities engage and stimulate the pupils, and communication is very well encouraged. The curriculum includes excellent opportunities after school, during the school holidays and on residential trips. It provides a good and suitable range of activities that effectively support the good progress pupils make and nurture their good personal development
The school is very well led and managed, with its excellent vision for improvement and very clear sense of direction linked with good self-evaluation. Consequently, the school not only knows its strengths and weaknesses very well but also knows how it can improve. It is well supported and challenged by committed governors. The school has progressed well since its previous inspection, including rising to the challenge of providing for pupils with different special educational needs. With its strong systems to monitor and evaluate its own progress and with the powerful commitment of staff, the school has good capacity to improve further.