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Prior's Court School

Hermitage, Thatcham, RG18 9NU, West Berkshire

01635 247202/245914



Prior's Court School
School type Independent Special School
Founded 1999
Special Needs ASD, AUT, CLD, EPI, MLD, SCLD
Director of Education and Learning Sue Piper
Date Appointed September 2011
Co-ed Age Range 5-19
Number of pupils 65
Number of boys 54
Number of girls 12
Number of boarders 63
Number of sixth formers 22
Fees On application

Prior's Court School is an independent special school for young people with autism aged from 5 to 19 years. The School offers day, weekly and termly places with 38, 44 and 52 week options. All the students have severe autism, with moderate to severe learning difficulties and complex needs. They may have additional associated diagnoses; some students exhibit challenging behaviours, and many are non verbal. All are working within P scales to lower national curriculum levels.

The School was opened in 1999. It is managed by Prior's Court Foundation, a registered charity which also runs a young adult provision and specialist autism training centre on the same site.

As an autism-specific school, Prior's Court is able to focus on meeting the specific needs of its students in the most effective and consistent way to support their learning:

  • A meaningful and functional curriculum with individualised learning programmes used throughout the waking day is built around students’ interests and skills.
  • The environment is adapted to meet students' needs - it is highly structured, calm, low-arousal, safe and secure with space and physical exercise a key feature providing opportunities to learn, exercise, socialise and relax onsite. Set in over 50 acres, facilities include a stable yard and paddocks for animal husbandry, a walled garden with greenhouse and polytunnel for horticulture, sensory swimming pool, trampolines, trim trail, zip wire, swings, activity track and outdoor gym.
  • A strong focus on training and expertise amongst staff members is a key factor. Our approach is based on TEACCH methodologies - world renowned for its effectiveness in supporting those with autism.
  • A large onsite multi-disciplinary team including Occupational therapy, Speech & Language therapy, Clinical Psychologists and Nurses as well as dedicated horticulture, animal husbandry, swimming, activities and ICT instructors provide support throughout the school day and in residential settings as well as out in the community where appropriate. All staff (education, residential, night, multidisciplinary and therapeutic team) are trained from induction onwards ensuring the highest levels of knowledge and expertise. These dedicated staff work closely with families and professionals to create a co-ordinated and consistent programme of education and care whose success is recognised worldwide.

By combining autism expertise and best practice with a person-centred approach, the school aims to achieve the highest level of progress for each individual enabling them to self-manage behaviour, communicate, manage transitions, develop independent living and social skills, make choices and advocate and progress to building vocational skills and undertaking work-placement activities.

Skills are taught onsite and applied out in the community during regular offsite trips, enabling students to work towards inclusion as far as possible.

"We were often told by professionals that our son, Brandon, was the most challenging and severely autistic child they had ever met. Since Brandon has started at Prior's court, we have seen him achieve milestones that we thought to be impossible. Brandon is now able to communicate with PECS, and at times, language. His anxiety levels have dropped and, consequently, so have the levels of challenging behaviour. The times we now spend together as a family are very positive." Parent at Prior's Court School.