A SPECIALIST school in Farnworth has been recognised by the Department for Education for its work in supporting students overcome challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Green Fold Specialist School in Farnworth is the only school of its kind in the UK to be featured by the National Tutoring Programme - a government initiative which provides additional support to schools to help disadvantaged pupils who have been most affected by closures.

The maintained specialist school, which is home to 140 pupils and part of the Orchards Foundation, caters for children with complex needs including profound and multiple learning disabilities, severe learning difficulties and autism spectrum disorder.

Thanks to the National Tutoring Programme, the school has been able to hire two new members of staff, including an academic mentor who has been working specifically on personalised communication plans for students with profound and multiple learning disabilities.

All pupils have an education, health and care plan, while more than half are in receipt of the Pupil Premium - a grant which allow schools to help disadvantaged pupils by improving their progress and the exam results they achieve.

Staff are delighted that the complex needs of their children and the amazing work that the team is doing has been recognised on a national scale.

Deputy headteacher Lisa Walker said: "We are absolutely delighted to be recognised by the Department for Education.

"As with all schools, one of the challenges has been around attendance. Although the school has remained open since the first lockdown in March 2020 for cohorts of children who were educated on site, attendance rate across the period has been approximately 40 per cent.

"A large number of pupils have remained at home, largely due to their complex needs, even when most schools were open."

For a significant proportion of the school's pupils with autism, when children initially returned to school in greater numbers in September 2020, staff immediately noticed the challenges they encountered in re-engaging with their learning.

The school has also invested significantly in updating its online remote learning resources. This includes Board Maker 7, a special education platform which allows children to access learning independently, using iPads or through printed documents and symbols.

For children without access to iPads at home, the school managed to obtain significant additional devices via the government's Access to Technology initiative.

Executive headteacher Andrew Feeley added: "Hiring two new tutors has made a massive difference to the children's learning experience.

"We wouldn't have been able to do this without the National Tutoring Programme.

"We're really proud to be the only special school and to be recognised for all the hard work that is going on here in Bolton."