Special school's birthday present is an outstanding review from Ofsted

Willesden-based Gesher has been praised for its 'life-changing' impact on pupils


Gesher, the Jewish special school which opened in Willesden in September, has real cause to celebrate its first year — Ofsted has just rated it outstanding in every category.

The inspection service highlighted skilled teaching and the clear vision of Gesher’s leadership in its unstinting  praise of the independent school, which specialises in supporting pupils on the autism spectrum.

Many parents reported that attending Gesher had been “life-changing” for their children.

Pupils were happy and safe and their behaviour was excellent. They enjoyed a consistently high quality of education, with some making “remarkable” progress, particularly in their social and communication development.

Gesher — which currently has 14 children aged four to seven — plans to increase its roll to 40 up to the age of 11. The facilities were “more than adequate” for expansion, Ofsted found. Subjects were taught through themes such as “people who help us” and the curriculum was enhanced by therapists and teachers expert in providing stimulating activities.

The wide extra-curricular choice, including swimming, drama and cooking, helped the children develop “new and exciting interests”, as well as improving their self-confidence.

“Outings to the local shops, the cinema and science and sensory activity centres make a strong contribution to pupils’ well-being and their understanding of the world around them,” Ofsted noted.

In Jewish education, “interesting tasks ensure that pupils develop the basic skills in reading and understanding Hebrew”.

Ali Durban and Sarah Sultman, Gesher’s co-founders, said the Ofsted report was a “dream come true. It proves what can be achieved when you have a team of people passionate about special needs education and changing the lives of children and their families.”

Headteacher Gianna Colizza was equally thrilled at the appraisal. “It reflects the commitment and dedication of the entire team to provide an exemplary education and the very best support for our pupils and families.”

Hannah Tobin told the JC her eldest son Jacob, five, had “never looked back” since starting at Gesher. “He has come on leaps and bounds, not only in what he learns but also his emotional well-being. 

“He is genuinely happier and is settled. He is gaining much more independence. He is a bright little boy.”

Jacob was diagnosed with autism at the age of two and would have struggled at a mainstream school, his mother believes. “From our point of view, it is a fantastic school. It gives him an individual, bespoke education I don’t feel he could have got anywhere else. It ticks all the boxes.”

David Kyte, chairman of Gesher’s executive, said the school was filling “a huge void in our community’s education infrastructure”.

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