West Sussex-based special school extends provision in response to rising demand for social, emotional and mental health support

Staff and students at an independent specialist school in Horsham, West Sussex are thrilled to reveal ‘Hillcrest Manor House’ as the new name for their school as it extends its services in response to the growing demand for specialist social emotional and mental health (SEMH) support. Marking an exciting new chapter in its development, the school – previously Hillcrest Slinfold – has moved from being a boys only secondary to mixed provision and has also expanded its age range intake to include primary and post-16 pupils.

Established by Hillcrest Children’s Services and part of Outcomes First Group, Hillcrest Manor House offers 24 places for children with SEMH aged 7 to 18, and specialises in offering a person-centred approach to education that plays to pupils’ strengths and helps to bring out their best. High levels of adult support are key to improving pupils’ interactions and social skills, and the school has received ‘Good’ to ‘Outstanding’ judgments in its last two Ofsted reports, with staff praised for providing “highly appropriate and consistent support that enables [pupils] to succeed”.

Building on this success, the school is now broadening opportunities for friendships, clubs and social events further by introducing girls to the previously boys only provision, thereby creating an environment that is more representative of life beyond education. The change also reflects the need for specialist support for girls and boys in equal measure.

Extending the age range of pupils it caters to is another key development at Hillcrest Manor House. Previously offering secondary places for students aged 11-16, the school recognises that early intervention and support are crucial to helping children with SEMH needs achieve their potential and now also offers placements to younger children aged 7-11. With escalating numbers of primary children with SEMH facing exclusion[1] [2] and huge gaps in their education, demand for support at this early stage is higher than ever. Post 16 placements are also now offered at Hillcrest Manor House, providing vital support and continuity to those students unable to attend college full time.

Students have shown great enthusiasm in contributing their ideas for the school’s name change as well as its new uniform – yellow and black for primary, and purple and black for secondary – reflecting progression through the school. Simple polo shirts and sweaters have been chosen over blazers, to cater for sensory needs and allow flexibility. The school crest depicts a corn field and pheasants to reflect the school’s surroundings and a book to represent learning was created with input from students.

Commenting on the new name, Head Teacher Alison Dobbie said, “We are thrilled to be providing extended opportunities for pupils with SEMH and our new name reflects these changes. Hillcrest Manor House projects an image of solidity and dependability – fundamental to our students’ needs – and fits well with the elegance of our main building as well as its proximity to Manor House Farm.”

[1] https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmeduc/342/34205.htm

[2] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/726741/text_exc1617.pdf