A specialist centre in Salisbury where children with special education needs and disabilities “flourish” has been graded outstanding.

The John McNeill Opportunity Centre, located on Odstock Road, was rated outstanding in all areas during an inspection by Ofsted which was carried out in May of this year.

It is the district specialist centre for south Wiltshire and given the highest ratings for the quality of education; behaviour and attitudes; personal development; leadership and management; and overall effectiveness.

In the Ofsted report, Inspector Lisa Large said children with special educational needs and/or disabilities are “exceptionally well supported” at the centre and praised the “very experienced, patient and caring staff” who support children’s emotional wellbeing “very effectively”.

The report said: “Children flourish in the dedicated and individualised support they receive from staff. They develop social skills and learn how to communicate through words, gestures, Makaton and/or the picture exchange communication system.

“Staff provide consistently high interactions with children through targeted one-to-one and group activities, for example circle time, stories and phonics activities. Children are very often eager to join in, they concentrate well and show pride in their achievements.”

The children who attend the centre come from across south Wiltshire and have a range of difficulties including Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Cerebral palsy, Downs Syndrome, genetic disorders and sensory impairments.

The inspector also highlighted the centre’s “exceptionally well planned and implemented” curriculum.

Adding: “Staff have high aspirations for children, they teach children the communication and social skills they will need for future life. They encourage children to be independent.”

The report also said that parents and grandparents 'can't speak highly enough' about the early years setting and that it is “like a family”.

The centre currently has 67 children attending.

The inspector also praised the centre’s work to help children into the next steps of their education.

“Children are extremely well prepared for their next steps in their education. Managers have excellent relationships with local schools and transitions are very well managed to ensure children settle well,” the inspector said.

Angela Bryant, Manager, said “I cannot praise our staff enough as they work together to ensure every child is given the opportunity to flourish while maintaining excellent working relationships with parents.”

The John McNeill Opportunity Centre has been running for more than 40 years. It was formed in 1979 by a group of parents who had pre-school children with special needs and were struggling to find the educational support their children needed during their early years development.

In 1989, the centre moved to its current home on Odstock Road.


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