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Success Stories

At New Barn School, we put the needs and development of our students first.

We are so proud of how our students have progressed, we thought we should share some of their success stories with you as written by the students themselves, their families, and their carers.

My New Barn Journey by Erin - Year 11 Leaver 2023

My time at New Barn School has been a journey I will never forget.

 I started New Barn in year 10 after being out of education for 18 months. I loved learning, but like a lot of autistic people, found the mainstream school environment very challenging, especially the pressure of doing well. 

My education journey had been a rollercoaster, from being in top set from year 7 to year 9 and getting very high grades, to then not being able to set foot into a classroom was extremely confusing and difficult. I puzzled everyone around me, who had never even thought I could be autistic, let alone heard of the word… 

Two years on, a diagnosis and EHCP later, I started New Barn School. I was blown away in my first couple of weeks how incredibly kind all the staff were, how they were so willing for me to grow and progress at my own pace. It took 6 months for me to settle properly, but once I had, I absolutely flourished.

From completing GCSEs to organising trips, yearbooks and events; New Barn did something for me that no other school had done, looked at me like a person and not just a student for a grade. Although some days were a challenge, I was genuinely overwhelmed by the natural caring nature than ran through the backbone of the school, which somehow makes the word ‘family’ seem more fitting.

Words can’t describe how much I have been helped, supported, encouraged and been able to thrive at this school. I have never learned, smiled and laughed so much in one day. I have never met so many incredible people in one place. I have never been so proud to be called someone’s student.

Leaving with 6 GCSEs was amazing. However, the independence, confidence and resilience I have gained is phenomenal.



James’ Parent Feedback

My son James started New Barn in Year 6 and had extremely low confidence and self-esteem.  

New Barn has been amazing! 

They have supported James throughout his journey and have regular communication with myself. 

The smaller class sizes and pupil to teacher ratio is just what he needed. 

James has made friends and has a great bond with the staff. 

His confidence and self-esteem have grown and he has managed to find a love for Basketball which has improved his fitness and mind set. 

James is currently in Year 9 and has his GCSE’s creeping closer, I am confident he will smash these! 

Thomas’ Parents View

What a wonderful place New Barn School is!

Our son, Thomas, began his journey there in Year 8 after many years of feeling traumatised and misunderstood within mainstream education.  He had reached crisis point after being bullied and singled out for having high functioning Asperger Syndrome which resulted in him feeling school was no longer ‘safe’.  This lead to a total avoidance of school and the worry of falling behind with his lessons and having no friends.  It was a very tense and anxious time for all of our family as we contemplated what to do in such an overwhelming situation.  In desperation, we applied for an Educational Health and Care Plan through the county council and once this was approved, we then began our search to find a specialist school that could support Thomas better.

It was a bright autumn morning that saw us visiting New Barn School for the very first time. Despite feeling nervous, Thomas enjoyed his tour of the school grounds and noticed how peaceful and calming the environment was.  This was a major plus point for him.  He particularly loved the small classrooms and outside spaces and meeting other children like himself started to give him the reassurance that he had found a way forward again.  As he said at the time, “The idea of relaxed learning with people that were similar to me excited me greatly.” We also got to meet a few members of staff and it was reassuring to hear how they could understand Thomas and support his needs; that gave us a real feeling of positivity.  The visit was such a success that we decided there and then that this was the place for him.

From the very first moment of stepping foot into his new classroom, Thomas’s life began to change for the better and a whole new world opened up.  He made lots of new friends, took up sport again (eventually joining the school football team), participated in sports days, enjoyed off-site educational visits, completed work experience, performed at various school concerts throughout the year and embarked on his Duke of Edinburgh bronze award – to mention a few examples.  He was also able to have access to Speech and Language Therapy which really helped him to become more self-assertive.  Throughout all of this, Thomas felt comforted that the staff working with him fully understood his needs and because of this he was able to regain his confidence and self-esteem; he went from fearing school to thoroughly enjoying it again – something we thought would never happen.  Furthermore, the staff also ensured that we, as parents, were always kept in the loop.  We were sent regular progress reports, had regular review meetings and if there was ever a need where we felt we needed to pop in and speak to somebody, this was arranged promptly.  We were also well supported in terms of transitional phases, not just between the school years but also in terms of help when it came to choosing post-16 further education.  In his final year at New Barn School, Thomas graduated with excellent results in all six GCSEs that he took, an endeavour he was extremely proud of.

Thomas is now settled in his final year at college having taken all of the positive experiences he had at New Barn School with him.  He is studying psychology, biology and business and has already received five university offers pending the outcome of his A levels this summer.  A few years ago, this would have seemed impossible but the foundations, support and learning at New Barn School have given Thomas an inner core of strength.  He now recognises that having an Autism Spectrum Disorder is not a barrier when it comes to his education, rather it is an acceptance of him being a unique individual and that he has so much to offer the world.  On his final week at New Barn School he made a speech during the end of term.  We think the words speak for themselves. 

Thomas Story (2020)

The following is a leaver’s-speech by one of our students who, after spending time away from mainstream education, was able to achieve great success with us at New Barn School, and has successfully transitioned onto A-Level studies at a high-achieving local 6th form college. We’re so proud of everything he’s accomplished.

“Hi, my name is Thomas and I am a year 11 student here at New Barn School. I have been here for over 3 years and I will be leaving the school this week.

It has been a fantastic few years here and I am so glad that I was given the chance to come to this school and feel so accepted and welcomed. This was life-changing to me, as before here, school was a much different experience and I was out of education for almost 2 years. I was starting to think that I would never find a suitable place to learn, until one day, my parents and I stumbled upon a newly opened school called ‘New Barn’. After a bit of research, we decided to visit for a tour and after stepping through the reception for the first time, I thought that this could be the solution to the problem of my education. I immediately noticed how different the school was and how it was designed in a way that made its students relaxed, myself included. Shortly after seeing all of this, we decided to apply for the school, and shortly after, I was thankful to learn that I had been accepted. From that point forward, I felt that I had been given a second chance at getting my overall development back on track.

For the first time in a long while, I felt relaxed and excited to learn in lessons with classmates that I could socialise and talk to without anxieties. I was able to do exercise every day in a safe environment and felt as if I actually belonged to the school. I also began to feel a lot more confident as a person, as I was given an environment to help develop and build my self-esteem up. More recently, I have also kindly been given work experience opportunities within the school, which has also been fantastic for building confidence and allowing me to learn new skills. It has also given me a taste of life outside of New Barn and helped me to get a larger understanding of possible routes that I could take in the future.

After 3 years at New Barn, I feel that I can take away so much from this school, this being possible thanks to the environment, the staff and the students. I have learnt so much here both academically and non-academically and I don’t think I would have had the same success at another school. From here, I will take all of my progress and hopefully continue to build on myself when I join my new college in September.

As a final word, I would like to wish this whole school the best of luck in the future and I hope that everybody has a fantastic Summer holiday!

Thank You Very Much For Listening.”

Joe's story (2019)

This passage was written by Joe’s family.

“For us, New Barn has been a life changing experience. Joe is happy, well supported, feels secure and feels like he belongs.  New Barn supports us as a family as they know looking after a child with Autism and learning disabilities is a 24 hour requirement.

We feel Joe’s first year at New Barn has been extremely successful. They have helped Joe transform into the happy and calm young man he is today, and we can’t wait to watch him grow further while he carries on his education with them.”

Joe’s Story This passage was written by Joe’s family. Joe has been a pupil at New Barn School for just over a year now. He started when he was 14. When Joe started at New Barn he had spent 13 months out of school, although he had very low attendance for previous 2 years. He had previously been at a previous special needs secondary school, but unfortunately they were unable to support the way he learns. He was unable to go into lessons, was considered too complex for class trips and was extremely unsettled every day. In the 13 months Joe was out of school he did lots of small home learning projects, lots of life skills learning and spent a lot of time having assessments from professionals to help us find an appropriate school for his needs. New Barn offers a holistic and individualised learning approach. They quickly understood Joe’s method of learning and were able to teach the way he learns. Joe goes on lots of trips, both sporting / educational trips and places of interest trips. Communication from the school is great. We have contact throughout the week if needed, and a round-up of the week every Friday afternoon. Children are rewarded with certificates on a weekly basis for their hard work. These are loved by Joe and proudly displayed at home. Joe has a lot of daily classroom support for lessons, class sizes are small and staff work hard to ensure Joe is understanding what is being taught. Any worries or anxieties are quickly spotted, supported and reduced, with staff keeping me up to date. Joe enjoys going to school every single day. For us, New Barn has been a life changing experience. Joe is happy, well supported, feels secure and feels like he belongs. New Barn supports us as a family as they know looking after a child with Autism and learning disabilities is a 24 hour requirement. Joe recently had difficulties with some homework, so extra support was provided at school instead of him worrying about it at home. Joe enjoys his homework projects, and has been supported enough at school to almost be independent in doing them at home. Watching Joe go into school and being met by staff with high fives, handshakes and hugs is heart-warming. We fondly think of New Barn as part of our extended family. Joe has always been a keen sportsman, he swims for Littlehampton Swimming Club and is a classified international para swimmer. Joe travels the country swimming and has recently swam nationally and internationally. He hopes to swim for team GB at the Paralympics one day. He is currently aiming to be invited onto a British para pathway squad. New Barn are very proud of Joe’s swimming achievements and celebrate all his competitions. Recently the whole school gathered in the dining room to watch Joe swim in the British finals which were live streamed by British Swimming. We feel Joe’s first year at New Barn has been extremely successful. They have helped Joe transform into the happy and calm young man he is today, and we can’t wait to watch him grow further while he carries on his education with them.

Annas Story (2021)

(Anna – GCSE English Assignment made June 2021)

Young and Autistic

I don’t remember much before year 4 because I moved around schools and location.

I do remember the last few years of primary, they’re not great memories and I think it was because people were noticing me more because other kids thought I was being rude when really it was just my autism, in year 5 and 6 I was accused of bullying. I had no idea what I had done, nobody explained it to me. Nobody told me exactly what it was I had done or what I should not have done. All the other girls seemed to know what to do to get me in trouble. But I never knew what to say to defend myself, I had a lot of friendship issues at this school due to this.

I was excited to go to secondary school because my sister was there and I was happy to get away from primary school kids.

My first few weeks in secondary school (school A) were a bit of a blur, I struggled to make friends and just hated school. There were too many people, the classrooms and classes were so big that I felt like the teachers didn’t even know who I was. They certainly didn’t notice that I was being bullied, pushed over in the corridors, made fun of and threatened on social media. I kept getting told a lot “You’re being overdramatic and sensitive”.

The mornings that I had to go to school I felt paralyzed and obviously couldn’t get out of bed. Then the days that I managed to get in the car I would freeze, my mum said I couldn’t see or hear anything and I would be shaking.

The whole time I was at School A I felt like I was always in the wrong set, it wasn’t until year 9 I knew about the inclusion room, even the inclusion manager was annoyed that she had only just been told she said

“I should’ve known about this from the beginning.”

I was good at masking my difficulties and I didn’t even know I was autistic yet.

It was around 2019 and I couldn’t cope, I wasn’t really going to School A anymore.

Mum and I were looking for another school to go to, we found a school in a village about a 30-minute drive away from us (School B). It was still mainstream but the pastoral support was better and I had already chosen my GCSE options so I didn’t have to do lessons I didn’t want to do. It was a managed move agreed by School A, organised and fought for by my mum.

Unfortunately this didn’t work, both as the school was too big, and the targets set were too much.

On my first day other students mixed me up with someone else and accused me of being a bully. It caused a big fight. They then spread rumours that I had been gossiping about another girl, she then texted me and threatened to beat me up. It wasn’t just the students, the teacher would physically push me into my lessons in front of 30 kids all staring at me when I was crying, having a panic attack or meltdown. I hated seeing my mum upset and she was upset a lot during the last few years but this was especially upsetting.

This obviously affected my attendance and I didn’t hit my targets (which were purely based on attendance because School A told them that was the only issue) and I just didn’t want to talk to anyone so they didn’t offer me a place, I returned to my previous school.

Back at School A:

When I was refusing to go to school, my mum was being told to punish me. To stop me from doing the things that I enjoyed like going to trampolining and cheerleading and seeing my friends. But my mum wouldn’t listen and said I had to keep the things I enjoyed in my life as everything else was horrible.

Having already told my friends I had moved schools it was really hard having to go back. I didn’t settle and still couldn’t manage the timetable. The only teacher I was having 1:1 lessons with was my maths teacher, she was really nice and understood me. All my other lessons I did in the inclusion room and teachers who didn’t know me were setting me work, it was either too hard or too easy

There were two types of learning I did. I started by working in the inclusion room at school, I was given work by teachers I hadn’t even met so they didn’t really know what kind of work to give – but it was so awful I ended up just emailing my mum everyday telling her what was going on.

When I had to visit the inclusion room they were rude and didn’t understand, once I was asked

“What are you doing in here?”

I explained I had anxiety and couldn’t go to my lesson. The response

“That’s not a good enough excuse, leave”

No-one in the room looked out for me or stood up for me.

Eventually, after my mum had to fight for it, the school agreed to let me do ‘blended learning’ with me learning from home, online, with a tutor coming in 2-3 times a week. This worked well because I got on well with my tutor and I was getting work that I was able to do but I still missed seeing my friends every day, I felt lonely.

We applied to go to CAMHS but while we waited, I had 1-2 appointments at the youth centre with an emotional support therapist but it didn’t work so we had to go privately. After speaking to my private psychologist for a few months I was also diagnosed as Autistic and also PTSD and Anxiety from the bullying at School A. I had the ASC assessment at the end of March 2019 and got the diagnosis in April I was 14.

I am still on the waiting list for CAMHS.

I understood what it was, I had already researched it online and ticked some of the boxes. Getting the diagnosis was a relief as I and my family understood me better.

We came to look at New Barn whilst waiting for the EHCP. It was like a shrunk mainstream school, and I could imagine myself there. It wasn’t just the size, there were only 2-3 kids in a classroom.

It took 2 attempts to get the EHCP as the first one was denied.

I was then accepted to go to New Barn, I felt relieved because I’d be back in normal education.

I’ve been attending New Barn now for just over a year, my attendance is great (the highest it’s ever been) and I surprisingly enjoy school.

I now get the right support at school, I am understood, my mental health always takes priority

Obviously it’s not perfect, but I don’t think any school can be.

Primary student Parent feedback

I feel my son has flourished since attending NBS. In accessing a variety of support and therapies the school offers, he has built up his social and emotional skills and learnt tools to self-regulate and have self-awareness. The teachers are knowledgeable and sen trained and have good strategies to aid students.

There is a sense of community at NBS and my son feels like a valued member there. I hope he continues to thrive. 

The setting is lovely and tranquil.

Joel’s story 

(Joel – GCSE English Assignment made June 2021)

Joel Q and A: Young and Autistic

What do you understand by Autism and how would you say it is affecting you?

I’d say it’s more of a mind-set, the way you look at things and take approaches to stuff. I would look at things that other people might not look at. Sometimes when brainstorming ideas, I may come up with ideas that are out there, maybe.

I don’t really know how it has affected me; I have not really thought about it, I have accepted it and gone with it.

Thinking back on when you first visited NBS, what was your first impression? Has this changed?

Nervous, mixed, didn’t know what to think. Alex (tutor) helped me settle in.

I had to get up earlier compared to last setting as I was attending full school day instead of two hours. I was probably really tired and developed a bad habit of napping after school which affected my sleep at night. I am on Melatonin now and it has helped so I don’t go to bed at 3 am anymore. It has taken a while to get used to it that’s why I attended virtually for a while. It works better for me learning at school though.

My view on the school now is good. I’m still tired a lot but overall it’s a good school.

What did you struggle with most in your previous setting?

People: I didn’t like or get along with both peers and staff.

Culture: That school was all about getting test result, looking good, being the best, you can. There was a lot of pressure to get work done from tutors. I dropped out because I didn’t want to be there. One morning I said that I couldn’t do it anymore. I then had a reduced timetable and was moved to SEN room. My tutor was unlikable, looking down on me, the way he acted towards me. I didn’t like him right from the start, carried that energy for two years and then refused to go. My tutor had clear favourites and didn’t show any interest in me. In his eyes he would be more willing to let you get away with more than most kids if you were performing well and the kids that were cast aside were more likely to get told off if they did something than the better kids to keep the reputation in check and ruin it for the school.

Can you specify what you mean by cast aside?

If you don’t fit in you’re a cast away

We all got along with each other for just not properly fitting in. Most of them were on the autistic spectrum. The way they acted showed evidence of them being autistic.

No teachers adapted the lesson or seemed to have an understanding of autism. I only enjoyed ICT, a media studies section, using Adobe and making a website but I didn’t like it when we were asked to work in teams. There was a boy who vaped in the lessons and I was in that team. No-one even noticed.

I did have 1-1 once a week with an LSA, she was nice. But the support provided wasn’t enough, the expectations weighed on me and I couldn’t do it anymore.

Do you mind describing how this affected you – physically and mentally?

One day it just hit me, my mind just said I cannot do this anymore. There were probably signs that I could not do that anymore. I just said I don’t want to go in.

What happened next?

My mum was in talks with the school about what to do and how to deal with it and from there we tried sorting out what the plan was, moving forward. I was put on a reduced timetable and was based in the SEN room, people were nice and I didn’t have to go to tutor and class.

It was only two hours a day and I got in on time. It would fluctuate between more and less and in the end we settled on two hours.

I didn’t progress much but had a SEN teacher sometimes. Then it turned into a tiny classroom which was strange. One student didn’t speak English. Staff didn’t seem to understand autism, especially the SEN teacher who was there temporarily and not really suited to it.

They realised pretty early on that this didn’t work long-term and decided to say that it wasn’t the right setting for me. Mum and I agreed. I was hesitant at first but knew deep down that this was kind of the only way.

Comparing NBS to your previous setting, what is it that makes it work for you?

Size helps, it’s not so crowded. At my previous school it looked like a mob e.g. in the lunch hall, that was overwhelming. The classrooms felt cramped, the smallest ever class was 10-15 (lower set English). I still couldn’t learn as it was full of the kids that didn’t want to learn.

The teachers didn’t know how to deal with autism unlike my present setting.

It was a regime, a militant way of working, stick to the schedule or fall off.

Would you rather be in a mainstream school? Why? Why not? How would it have to change to work for you?

I would like to be where I am right now, because it’s easier to deal with than a mainstream environment – apart from the sleep issues.

The support helps get me to do more work- at my previous school it was everyone for themselves – if they don’t learn they are just going to fall behind.

It helps bouncing ideas with support staff.

I don’t tend to notice things like the way work is presented on worksheets etc. it’s more of a subconscious thing.

When do you feel most comfortable/uncomfortable at New Barn School and what do you think may cause it.

I feel uncomfortable in PE, because of the subject and the class set-up: we are together with different groups that I’m not used to.

I feel comfortable in my tutor room, because it’s a place I can sit and just be and is the first and last place I’m at in the school day.

The library is a place where I go to socialize.

Do you have a person here at NBS that you feel comfortable talking to if you have a concern at school?

To be honest I would tell mum and she would then contact the right people. If I needed help with an issue at school, I could talk to my tutor.

Do you sometimes get impatient with neurotypical people or their demands on you? For example, this assignment, what makes it hard for you to complete it?

Yes because I’m trying to compare myself to something I have no information about. It’s trying to describe something that you have no knowledge about and comparing it to you.

Can you give an example?

I guess the way that I act maybe, that maybe comes off as a bit offensive to people. It is not meant to be offensive, it’s just the way that I can act.

What style of teaching suits you best? For example: 1-1, teacher instructing the whole class, self-directed, working independently on set tasks?

Working visually is one way, I process information better visually than if it is just being said to me. I think that is pretty well done here. Working independently- after having had clear instruction – is another way, I find it is easier than working in groups.

How do you experience online learning compared to being at school?

I guess online learning is not the same as physical learning. Not being there in person makes the interactions less human. I think it stays in my head less than physical learning because for me it would be easier to have a school mind-set in school. At home I have to balance two mind-sets.

If you could make a wish for something at NBS, what would that be?

It is fine as it is right now.