Abbey School has launched a residential offering to provide tailored, high quality residential provision as part of its highly specialist, autism-specific educational model.

The Independent Day and Residential School is located within Chester Cathedral’s historic grounds in the centre of the city. It delivers evidence-based education, nurturing and care to young people aged 4-19 with complex autism, who may have learning difficulties and behaviours that challenge.

Opened in June, the new accommodation means the school will now be able to provide pupils that require a residential placement with 24/7 support.

Abbey School combines the latest special education research and best practice to create an outstanding teaching and learning experience, with the wellbeing of pupils and staff at the heart of the school’s philosophy. The school’s model is built around a holistic approach to education that ensures the continued development of each pupil and which supports their growing independence and capability.

The new residential provision will extend Abbey School’s offering of a bespoke, waking day curriculum that brings learning and development into the pupil’s everyday life through engagement and participation.

The launch of Abbey School’s residential offer follows a comprehensive refurbishment of several beautiful mews properties on the school’s site. The transformed Victorian buildings overlook the ancient city walls, providing a calm space in which the children and young people can live and learn while simultaneously being able to easily access Chester’s amenities and community spaces.

Each house has its own garden and outdoor space along with a lounge, kitchen and activity area as well as bedrooms and bathrooms. The spaces have been designed to provide an attractive and welcoming home that meets each resident’s needs. Pupils are encouraged to further personalise their area of the house based on their interests.

Young people live in small groups in each house and are being supported by a highly qualified team of residential care staff which will include a home manager, key workers, residential care staff and waking-night staff. Pupils follow a waking-day curriculum of fun-filled activities, extending the knowledge and skills acquired at school into their home setting while also developing daily living, social, personal care, and leisure skills.

Residential placements at Abbey School are available for any child or young person with complex autism, learning difficulties and behaviours that challenge, regardless of where they live in the UK.

Such support for children with special educational needs is increasingly in demand. In 2021 the government reported that the percentage of pupils with an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan had increased from 3.3% to 3.7%.

The government’s report also identified that the most common type of need for those with an EHC plan is Autistic Spectrum Disorders. Research indicates that a person with autism is up to eight times more likely to experience a placement breakdown and Department of Education data shows that every region in England has experienced a rise in exclusions for children with autism of between 45% and 100% in five years.

These statistics highlight the vital need for combined educational and residential support that’s tailored specifically to the needs of young people with autism.

Dr Katy LeePrincipal at Abbey School, said: “Our brand new residential provision will help meet an urgent and growing demand for focused environments tailored to the needs of young people with autism. This sort of support is in short supply across the country, which means that many pupils’ placements unfortunately end up failing.

“At Abbey School, our expertise is in catering for young people with autism. This specialism is illustrated throughout our operations, such as the way we personalise each pupil’s curriculum and learning journey according to their individual requirements. This bespoke curriculum is delivered through a careful balance of 1-1 and small group learning support.

“Now that we’ve opened the doors of our residential offering, we’re looking forward to welcoming young people who will benefit from waking day education where their development and wellbeing will be nurtured and supported by our highly trained, trans-disciplinary team.

Relationships with family and friends will be supported and encouraged for all pupils. Family visits are welcomed and families can keep in touch through regular phone calls and video calls.

Dr Lee added: “By working closely with families and local authorities, we’re committed to providing an excellent residential experience that aligns with each child’s existing support network. As part of this, they will be introduced to their new school and living arrangements through a detailed and highly personalised transition plan.”

Professor Sandy Toogood, Head of Clinical and Behavioural Services at Abbey School for Exceptional Children, said: “Abbey School represents an advanced approach to caring for and educating children and young persons with autism. As an innovative learning organisation, we’ve combined special education research and best practice in order to create an environment that maximises pupil learning and wellbeing.

“Research conducted by our curriculum leadership team, including partners at Bangor and Warwick Universities, has informed our curriculum, which is highly individualised, goal-based and precisely assessed. The individual learning and therapeutic support plans utilised at Abbey School are constantly reviewed and adapted to ensure that each young person’s needs are consistently met and that they are making steady progress.”

Pupils have a number of residential options available, ranging from 38-41 week placements including the option of returning home for weekends.

For more information about Abbey School’s day and residential offer, visit:

App coming soon…

We are developing an app – the Abbey School Model APP – and associated software to help staff plan, deliver, and monitor outstanding teaching and learning at school, home and in the community. A version of the APP will also be available for the adult social care sector.