New Somerset special school wins a hat trick of accolades

24th July 2023 | News | Thrive Ambassador Schools

A hat trick of accolades

A Somerset special school which has been open for less than a year has been judged as Outstanding by Ofsted and won two awards for its focus on mental wellbeing. 

Dovecote School, based at Shapwick, near Bridgwater, was awarded Ofsted’s top rating and has been named as an Ambassador School for the role it plays in supporting the mental wellbeing of young people. 

The school, which opened in September, has 57 pupils aged from 5 to 18 years old, with capacity for 75. The majority of its pupils have autism and some have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or pathological demand avoidance (PDA). Many have high levels of anxiety and have previously struggled to attend school. 


“I couldn’t be more delighted with the successes we have had in our first year. Ofsted said that what we do for young people and their families is life-changing and that is why we’re here. Before September, a lot of our students had not been in school for up to three years and now their attendance is 92 or 93 per cent, which is just incredible,” said Headteacher Neil Gage. 

Dovecote has also been named as an Ambassador School with Excellence in Relationship and Environment by Thrive, an organisation which trains teachers and other education professionals to support the social and emotional development of children and young people. The Environment award recognises extraordinary schools which are making a positive impact on their pupils and on the wider community by having a focus on emotional wellbeing and creating an environment in which children’s wellbeing thrives. The Relationship award recognises schools which forge a strong connection between staff and pupils, creating a firm foundation for learning.    

Developing skills

Dovecote has used the Thrive Approach since it opened as a way to put mental health at the heart of school life. As well as academic assessments such as GCSEs, the school offers functional skills qualifications to provide a pathway to a career. Its facilities include a farm, forest school and gardens that create a therapeutic environment for children and young people as well as opening up opportunities for developing skills in areas such as horticulture. It has a high ratio of staff to pupils and a team of experts including a speech and language therapist and an occupational therapist who work alongside teaching staff in the classroom, rather than making referrals to external agencies. There is also a strong focus on working with parents and carers so that children and young people have a consistent approach and common language at home and at school. 

“In the short time it has been open, Dovecote School has made remarkable progress that is anchored in a genuine commitment to prioritising mental and emotional wellbeing. It is inspirational to read the impact it is having already and to think about what it will achieve in the future as it reaches more children and young people and continues to change lives,” said Eva-Marie Ford, Thrive’s Relationship Manager for the South West and Wales.  

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