Stoke Newington school for autistic children needs help to create sixth form

PUBLISHED: 13:30 14 March 2016 | UPDATED: 13:39 14 March 2016

Labour MP Diane Abbott and Pat Quigley, head of The Garden School, in front of the children's artwork

Labour MP Diane Abbott and Pat Quigley, head of The Garden School, in front of the children's artwork


An “outstanding” school for children with autism and severe learning difficulties wants to create a sixth form – which would be the first of its kind in Hackney.

Labour MP Diane Abbott and a pupil of The Garden SchoolLabour MP Diane Abbott and a pupil of The Garden School

The Garden School, Wordsworth Road, Stoke Newington, has 120 pupils aged four to 16 on its register who can’t communicate verbally.

The 110 staff members use a bespoke curriculum to develop communication, learning, and independence in the purpose-built school. But head Pat Quigley says without a sixth form, the years of good work can be undone in the space of a few months.

With no suitable provisions in Hackney, some students have to travel as far as west London or Muswell Hill to find post-16 education, while others can’t access any and simply stay at home.

“Not only is travelling outside the borough more expensive, the disruption of finding a new school and settling in there can undo years of good work,” she said.

“It can destroy whole families if they are not sure where their child will go or if they will get in. Cutting that out makes a massive difference – they are dealing with the same people and the same faces.”

The school, which was rated outstanding by Ofsted in 2014, wants help in finding a site suitable for a sixth form they can open in 2017.

After a presentation to councillors at this month’s budget meeting, staff have now turned to MP Diane Abbott for support.

On Friday, the shadow international development secretary took a tour of the school, chatting with children and teachers.

“It’s concerning we are seeing a big rise in autism in Hackney and it’s good the children are in a first class facility,” she said. “Lots of parents come to me for help, so it’s reassuring to know.”

She added the sixth form issue was a council one.

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