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Purple Oaks Academy, a special school in the Kingsthorpe area of Northampton, has been announced as SEND School of the Year at The Northamptonshire Education Awards. The academy, which is part of Greenwood Academies Trust, provides specialist education for children aged 3 to 18 with autism spectrum disorder and/or severe learning difficulties.

The fifth annual Northamptonshire Education Awards took place on Friday 10th November at the Northampton County Cricket Ground and was hosted by one of the UK’s leading TV presenters, Eamonn Holmes. The prestigious black-tie evening was well attended by many people across the education sector. Purple Oaks Academy was represented by 10 members of staff from different areas of the academy including the leadership team, teachers, support staff and the site team.

Staff from Purple Oaks Academy were delighted to be named as SEND School of the Year for the academy’s high quality of provision and the positive impact this has on outcomes for students.

The academy was nominated for the award by Sarah Martin, Education Director for Special Academies at Greenwood Academies Trust, in recognition of the amazing work they do. The award submission included details of the academy’s Advanced Accreditation from the National Autistic Society where external assessors identified that:

  • Staff have an excellent working knowledge of evidence-informed approaches associated with good autism practice.
  • They can adapt these specialist approaches with creativity so that support is highly personal-centred and tailored to individual qualities, abilities, interests, preferences and challenges.
  • Practice is consistently informed by an understanding of how to support each autistic individual in their communication and social interaction; in becoming more self-reliant; in sensory regulation and in maintaining their emotional well-being.
  • Initiatives have had a considerable impact on the quality-of-life of autistic individuals and on the understanding that families, other professionals or members of the public have about autism.

The award submission for SEND School of the Year also included information about Purple Oak Academy’s strong belief in offering opportunities for families and the community to be involved in the life of the academy. It gave the example of the annual summer fair which is now a popular event in the community with stalls, food and drink, a quiet autism friendly hour, local bands, and disability performance groups.

Denise Williams, Principal at Purple Oaks Academy, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to have won SEND School of the Year! In the words of our students, receiving this accolade is ‘really cool’. We took the lovely wooden award we were given to our celebration assembly so that pupils could take a closer look and discuss what THEY feel makes Purple Oaks so remarkable.”

Sarah Martin, Education Director for Special Academies at Greenwood Academies Trust, said: “I’m thrilled for the whole team at Purple Oaks that the hard work that goes on every day has been recognised. The academy, with support from Greenwood Academies Trust, has always aimed to provide the very best learning environment and curriculum opportunities for autistic students and those with severe learning difficulties, and I know the academy will continue to go from strength to strength because of the dedication of everyone.”