A school for autism has won a £100,000 prize for its impressive work transforming children’s lives.
Queensmill School in Shepherds Bush won the Special Schools and Alternative Provision category in the national Pupil Premium Awards.
The school teaches children and young people with autism, a lifelong condition which affects how they relate to other people and make sense of the world around them.
Queensmill was one of two Hammersmith and Fulham schools in the running for the prize. The Bridge AP Academy in Fulham was one of the four runners-up at the event held at Drapers Hall in the City of London.
Queensmill’s headteacher Jude Ragan, said: “It was such a shock. You don’t expect these things; especially when it’s £100,000. It's just heavenly.”
The awards recognise schools’ efforts to support disadvantaged pupils, measured by the number of youngsters receiving free school meals. More than two fifths of Queensmill’s 150 pupils have free school meals.
Judges assessed how schools were spending funding aimed at helping disadvantaged pupils.
They were impressed by Queensmill’s efforts to increase pupils’ access to technology such as iPads; provision of a wide range of sensory activities such as trampolines and swings to help alleviate anxieties; running before and after school clubs for children to enjoy and for respite for families; and providing musicians to play for the children.
Jude said the school was going to spend the money on similar resources and activities, as well as employ a home liaison worker. This new staff member will be able to visit homes and teach families techniques to help keep their autistic children calm and happy. At the moment this advice is given by teachers with more limited time.
The headteacher, who is retiring this year, said the publicity from the award, announced on March 25, is also important. She added: “Every time autism gets a bit of publicity people get to understand a bit more.
“When I trained in the 1960s we were in the dark ages. We have come a long way in the last 50 years but there’s still a long way to go. Parents have a rough time. They all deserve a medal.”
Andrew Christie, H&F Council’s director of children’s services, said: “This award is richly deserved for a school which makes such a massive difference to families’ lives.
“It is also a fitting tribute to the work of headteacher Jude Ragan. She will be sorely missed when she retires this year but I know Queensmill’s fantastic team will continue its excellent work.”