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'They come to us feeling they've failed'

High expectations, attention to teacher training and after-school homework classes are behind the success of one of the country's top-performing special schools.

Laleham school, near Margate, Kent, which caters for pupils with severe dyslexia and other speech and language difficulties, has pulled off a rare double, coming in the top 25 for value-added at key stages and GCSEs.

Its performance at KS3 gave it the highest value-added of any school with 30 or more pupils sitting tests.

The statistics should be put in context. All 31 Laleham pupils were exempted from KS3 English tests because of their difficulties, so the scores are based on maths and science alone. And although 82 per cent of pupils achieved at least five GCSE passes at G or better, the school's figure of 7 per cent getting five Cs or better is well below the national average.

But head Keith Mileham says its excellent score shows the school's approach of providing specialist, individual attention to pupils is paying off.

There are only eight to 12 pupils per class and staff are well-qualified: all of them have just finished an advanced course in speech, language and communication at Canterbury Christ Church college. A minority of pupils at Laleham board but all stay at school until 7pm to do their homework, as it is believed they work better under supervision.

Mr Mileham said: "Many (pupils) come into the school with low self-esteem, thinking they have failed in mainstream. By the time they finish they are getting GCSEs mainstream schools would be proud of."

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