WHAT stood out about Ashgate Croft's entry in the special school category was the effort to make their "school brochure" accessible - and the recognition that, for many parents, choosing a special school can be a painful, difficult and worrying experience.
"I am proud to be telling you about our school," is headteacher Mike Meaton's upbeat opening which swiftly moves on to a clear and succinct account of what the school offers its 180 pupils with a range of learning difficulties.
"We believe education for our pupils includes not only the subjects of the national curriculum but... importantly, life skills.
"We want all our pupils eventually to leave school to become successful members of the wider community, hence our school motto is "Building Skills for Life".
The welcoming tone at Ashgate Croft is unconditional and supportive:
"Prospective parents and pupils are welcome to visit the school at any time. I shall be pleased to show you around our school and discuss with you the particular needs of your child."
But practical: "You may wish to come with your child or alternatively to visit first on your own and then return with your child for a second visit."
And sensitive: "For some parents the decision to consider the possibility of a special school is a difficult one. We appreciate this."
The section on complaints was one of the best the judges saw in any prospectu:
"It is nearly always possible for queries and problems regarding all aspects of school life to be dealt with effectively by good homeschool communication. Often complaints can be resolved by an informal discussion with the teaching staff or, if you prefer, the headteacher. We shall always aim to get back to you during the same day to tell you how we intend to respond to your complaint."
Though Mike Meaton is quick to say the brochure was a collective effort, with many people contributing and bursar Simon Revill masterminding the production, the consistency of his own single editorial hand is evident.
He became head at Ashgate Croft three years ago and admits he always had something of vision of how a brochure should be. This was his first oppor-
tunity to put it into practice. That vision was that it should reflect the life of the school but above all in a special school, where many parents might themselves have reading difficulties, it needed to be accessible to everyone.
"That meant being visually accessible and giving a flavour of the school through photographs and drawings by pupils and by keeping it simple and straightforward. My parent governors are always telling me that things that come out of the school need to be readable by ordinary people."
Around 250 copies of the brochure were produced in-school using a PC and photo-copier in clear large sans-serif print with a relevant picture on every page.